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Wednesday June 13, 2018

De Morgan, Fashion, and Quiz

Today my sister and I had a Big Day Out in London.


We kicked off with what my sister was really interested in - seeing the De Morgan tiles exhibition, Sublime Symmetry at the Guildhall's art gallery in London. They were wonderful - just wanted to take some home of course - and exhibited alongside interesting information and artifacts from his life and work. While at the Guildhall we were also able to get access the Hall itself, and have a tour of the crypt.
We wandered out to lunch via Postman's Park - which has a Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice founded by Watts (he of the Watts Gallery where my sister volunteers) and with dedication plaques designed by De Morgan.

We then drifted on to the V&A to (drink lot of tea and) see Fashioned from Nature - making good use of my membership while I can.... The exhibition was about the use of organic objects (from dead birds to beetle wings) in fashion from early times, through to a more "green" way of thinking that influences (some) designers today.

Finally we went on to the theatre.


Quiz is a fun and popular show based on the "coughing Major" trial (where the Quiz in question is Who Wants to be a Millionaire), and we enjoyed it along with everyone else. The audience vote twice during the show to give a "verdict" - and we were duly manipulated to alter our votes in the way intended by the author. I was interested to read Chris Tarrant's newspaper articles about it in the Guardian - his point of view is quite clearly put.

Posted on June 13, 2018 at 7:39 PM

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Thursday June 7, 2018



All I can say is... this was not at all what I was expecting.

And if I were to say the Wushi Lion Bull creature that featured in Carmen along with a keystone cops chase scene on trampolines were quite amusing - then I would have to tell you about the rest of it.
And the rest of it was pretty damned poor - not even bad enough to be funny. In truth I wanted my money back. The face value of my stalls seat was £59 which is staggering considering a comparison with the top price £64 stalls ticket for a seat to see Network at the National.

The hype for this "show" (where the intervals are - in this case fortunately - longer than the actual acts) beggars belief: "A spectacular, high adrenaline, unforgettable journey of love, vengeance, tears and laughter."
Or possibly just tears of suppressed fury and hysteria at wasting my time and money.

Posted on June 7, 2018 at 5:27 PM

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Sunday May 20, 2018

Roman London


Today we went to the Museum of London for a short guided tour of the Roman walls. We got ourselves in the mood by wandering around the excellent free exhibits while waiting to join our party. As was explained to us - the view above is not really very Roman but much later. The actual Roman parts are only the first few feet of the visible walls.


However this gloomy interior below was what we had really come to see: a locked area of the car park with the remains of a gate and probable guard post area.


The angles for my photos were limited owing to the low lighting conditions. [However, the cool interior was a welcome relief from the remarkably hot weather we are experiencing here at the moment].


Posted on May 20, 2018 at 11:25 PM

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Saturday April 21, 2018

Absolute Hell


I am quite interested in revivals from this period, so I took the opportunity of getting some tickets for a preview evening. Controversial in 1951 - but that was a lifetime ago (mine in fact) and I loved it. Beautifully staged and acted, showing both interior (on two levels) and exterior action all within the one brilliant set.
I did find it quite difficult to hear from my seat in the slips; since it's set in a club in Soho and there's a lot spirited party atmosphere, I found that following the sparky dialogue proved tricky, especially at the beginning. I'm afraid I think this is my hearing rather than the play though.

Posted on April 21, 2018 at 9:21 AM

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Friday April 20, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing


Another pensioners afternoon out at our local village hall.
This is an excellent film worth all the notices. Considering the grim subject matter, the film surprised me with its moderately positive ending - and a lot of (albeit black) humour.

Posted on April 20, 2018 at 11:27 AM

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Thursday April 12, 2018

The Grinning Man

The Grinning Man artwork.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

I had pretty low expectations for this - and how wrong I was. It was absolutely wonderful - great music and cast - and turns out it's a cult hit. It's a tragicomic musical based on Victor Hugo's novel L'Homme Qui Ri; premiered at the Bristol Old Vic before transferring to the Trafalgar Studios, (a venue I'm becoming quite fond of), where it's into an extended run.

Posted on April 12, 2018 at 9:22 AM

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Saturday March 24, 2018

Polesden Lacey


Alison and I met up at Polesden Lacey for a "nice day out" - it was a bit wet in fact but that in no way dampened our enjoyment of baked potatoes with tuna mayonnaise and coleslaw, (trip down memory lane from when we first met) followed by cream teas (always a highlight of a National Trust tea room). Not quite as pictured but just as refined....

Posted on March 24, 2018 at 5:54 PM

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Friday March 23, 2018

Darkest Hour


I wanted to see this film and George wasn't keen - but he spotted that it was showing in a local village hall thanks to Curzon Country Cinema. We must have lowered the average age by some degree - but we are practising for retirement - and how nice to walk to a local cinema (with a real projectionist!) just like in "the old days".

Posted on March 23, 2018 at 11:28 AM

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Sunday March 18, 2018



I'm in Edinburgh for the Yarn Festival. Dorothy, Helen, and I spent a lovely day wallowing in wool. I didn't buy much other than some wool (obviously) from Jamiesons and Jamison and Smith to make the Shetland Baable Hat; the double purchase was my error in - after all this time - not realising they were 2 distinct companies! So I am now committed to making one hat in each colourway. I also bought a couple of skeins to give to Alison (a shawl).


The weather has been pretty bad - blizzard and freezing winds - but we managed to stay snug, eating a step away from the hotel every night in Fishers.

Posted on March 18, 2018 at 11:19 PM

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Tuesday February 6, 2018



I somehow failed to notice this production - I guess I knew the film from my youth and never watched it (despite its being "acclaimed" - someone experiencing a nervous breakdown on camera never held much appeal). However, Brian Cranstone is another matter - known to and loved by me for his priceless performances in Malcolm in the Middle rather than the more recent and much hyped role in Breaking Bad.
So without much optimism I joined the Friday Rush queues for tickets, and was amazed (really lucky) to actually procure some - for a matinee and which I think must have been top price returns. And what a truly great production it was. Even George was impressed.


Posted on February 6, 2018 at 10:50 PM

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Sunday January 28, 2018



Alison and I had a day out at the Dulwich Picture Gallery to catch the final day of the Tove Jansson exhibition.
I saw a great documentary about TJ on BBC4 some time ago and it was wonderful the see the actual detailed artwork and working drawings for the sketches. And also of course I read all the books as a small child - which must have been only a short time after they were available in English translations. I read all that were in our local library which was probably only 4 or 5, but apparently there are 9.
Overall it was excellent - and the only minor disappointment was that all the beautiful tiny drawings which we imagined would transfer well to postcards were not available - all posters and prints sold out, unsurprisingly.

They have a really good cafe at the gallery (Dulwich is a very right-on place) where we had both elevenses and (later) a light lunch (despite being initially rather startled by the strength of the black tea).

The excitement of the day was rounded off by going to see The Last Jedi at Kingston Odeon. Nostalgia all round.

Posted on January 28, 2018 at 8:16 PM

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Saturday January 13, 2018



This was a spontaneous booking at a very low price which tempted me - I wanted to see it for the inventive direction and puppetry - I had not checked but it is in fact a musical and did (to my delight) include the familiar songs I had hoped for - specifically "An Actors Life for Me" - and Mr Fox was also terrific. The seats were right at the front of the stalls - temporary seating I'm guessing - presumably thought to be not ideal with the way the production is staged (giant puppets) and hence they are offered at such bargain prices. However I absolutely love being close to the stage and enjoyed the whole thing very much.

Posted on January 13, 2018 at 9:13 AM

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Saturday January 6, 2018



Always worth seeing the imaginative Matthew Bourne shows - this one had many plus points for originality, being set in WW2 and with not only a wicked step-mother and 2 ugly sisters but also 2 ugly brothers (one with a shoe fetish).
The only thing I was not so keen on was the fairy godfather. I liked the concept but his silver outfit/hair etc reminded me (being that old) too much of the ancient TV series UFO, and although he was a terrific dancer, I was not keen on the choreographic style he was given. In fact I found him rather sinister, but I am not sure how much that in itself was a detractor - maybe the opposite. I did like the implication at the end that he helped other down trodden maidens and not just Cinderella.

The truth is I was spoiled with Swan Lake all those years ago, and more recently with Edward Scissorhands and then the fantastic Carman. He set the bar very high.


Posted on January 6, 2018 at 9:15 AM

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Tuesday December 26, 2017

Boxing Day


Today the weather truly was glorious and here's the photo to prove it. We went to another part of Moine Mhòr nature reserve - an easy path along a boardwalk out over the bog. It's called the Tileworks Trail and we were fascinated to find the woodland path had little patches of tiles set into the earth - a kind of art project, as I think the trail was named prior to the ceramic's appearing.

Posted on December 26, 2017 at 7:43 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Monday December 25, 2017

Christmas Day


We had the most wonderfully relaxing Christmas at Helen's in Scotland. I'm not sure why it proved to be quite so excellent - o apart from Helen being a fabulous friend, welcoming host and terrific cook...! Just that...! Here we are all looking Charlies over our yummy lunch

After that we went to Dunadd for a bracing walk - the weather was surprisingly good (ie not raining). I'm including the following photos mainly to show the amazing views. We abandoned Dorothy (at her request) half way up - it was a pretty slippery climb. I dutifully placed my foot in the "footprint of fealty" - in a reverential manner I hasten to add.




Posted on December 25, 2017 at 7:42 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Saturday December 23, 2017

A guide to tasteful gifts

We had lunch with my sister.
She was anxious to show off my tasteful Christmas gift to her.


Posted on December 23, 2017 at 4:04 PM

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Thursday November 30, 2017

Melrose Quartet


Tonight we saw the Melrose Quartet at Kings Place - apparently for the launch of their 'Dominion' album, which Rob duly purchased.
The band are: Nancy Kerr (voice, fiddle), James Fagan (voice, bouzouki, guitar), Jess Arrowsmith (voice, fiddle) and Richard Arrowsmith (voice, melodeons).
And they were fantastic of course.


Posted on November 30, 2017 at 10:57 PM

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Thursday November 23, 2017

Rambert - A Linha Curva


Another visit to Sadlers Wells with ballet Rambert showing off their spectacular abilities in modern dance.

A Linha Curva was probably my favourite of the pieces - "the spirit of Brazilian carnival" recreated by choreographer Itzik Galili, with 28 dancers, four samba percussionists and wonderful lighting. According to the dancers, the latter cued the dancing as there was no lighting operator, and the dance included ad lib exuberant chatter from the dancers.

The second piece was Symbiosis, a showcase for the Rambert dancers' skills applied to a new score by Ilan Eshkeri.
And finally, a kind of darkly humorous piece "Goat". The work is inspired by the music and spirit of Nina Simone, with a selection of songs performed live on stage by jazz singer Nia Lynn. I read the significance of the "goat" thing in the programme but that probably didn't help me much with the piece overall. However even if not all the meaning was apparent to me, it was a very emotional experience.

The sets and lighting were fascinating throughout.

Posted on November 23, 2017 at 11:56 PM

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Tuesday November 21, 2017

Labour of Love


This was a terrific play, and appealed to me on many levels. The plot was interesting (although maybe "just a love story") but it was set against the backdrop of the heyday of New Labour - the life and times of an MP newly elected in the early 90s through to being about ot lose his seat in the recent election. We moved back and forward through the decades, the "times" being set by various multimedia techniques - which for me struck more of an emotional chord than simply setting the scene.
The play had a very sharp and witty script, with seriously good casting - not only Tamsin Grieg and Martin Freeman but also Rachel Stirling. I cannot emphasise enough how well the actors demonstrated their abilities in highly skilled timing. Not for the first time though, we did have a slight problem catching all the words of the said witty script. Since we know and admire the actors for their TV work, we did wonder if they were less used to projecting on stage maybe - or if it was just our declining hearing (which is sadly a given).

Posted on November 21, 2017 at 8:40 AM

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Thursday November 16, 2017

ATP tennis at the O2



It's that time again... when Helen and I make our pilgrimage to the O2 for the ATP finals - Day 5. And thanks to that thoughtful chap Nadal asking to be excused playing on Sunday - the schedule was altered so that once again we end up on a "Federer Day". And once again we saw him win.
I missed the Bryans.... but you can't have everything.

Posted on November 16, 2017 at 11:53 PM

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Friday November 10, 2017

Darbar Festival


A triple bill of vibrant new talents at Sadlers Wells as part of the Darbar Festival. Opening with Mythili Prakash, an international star of Bharatanatyam, followed by the deep unfolding ragas of Debasmita Bhattacharya, on the sarod joined on the tabla by Gurdain Rayatt. Finally, dynamic and soulful kathak perfomer Dheerandra Tiwari, inspired by the Advaita philosophy teachings about how to reach a state of spiritual bliss, revealed to gods.
Bliss attained.

Posted on November 10, 2017 at 11:40 PM

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Thursday November 2, 2017

For Love or Money


Rob booked a whole series of plays at the Rose this season - and this was one I would have given a miss from the description. What a mistake that would have been! Northern Broadside produced a marvelous adaptation of Lesage's savage eighteenth-century comedy Turcaret - just wonderfully staged, full of life and exuberance, and bordering on commedia dell'arte in form and technique.

Posted on November 2, 2017 at 7:54 AM

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Tuesday October 31, 2017



I finally made it to iKnit about a week before Gerard moves his main shop to Liverpool!
It's a shame he has to close his doors down south - it sounds as thought the new premises are going to work well - and he is retaining his workshop down here and plans to keep some kind of base but not sure yet how it will pan out.
However it was a very jolly party despite the farewells - and there will be another at Christmas - but unfortunately I can't make that date.

Posted on October 31, 2017 at 10:34 PM

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Saturday October 28, 2017

Lewes WSD Open Day


I decided to go to the Lewes Guild open day on my own this year (no coach trip available). I went by train and it was pretty successful as an outing. The show itself did not seem to have quite the pizzazz of previous years but they did have a lot of crafts and demos for people to try out - which is a good thing to go for.


As usual I entered the raffle for a wonderful handwoven scarf - but failed to bag a prize!


Tempted by the signs I had passed while running up and down the high street looking for the Town Hall, I paid a visit to Anne of Cleves house.
I chose to walk down Keere Street, (apparently also known as Scare Hill), as it looked so picturesque with its cobbles, Grade II listed buildings, and sharp downhill drop. It seems it is famous for the legend that the future George IV once drove a coach and four down the street to reach Southover Grange.


Anne of Cleves house itself is also very picturesque although she not only never lived there but never even visited it - just part of a divorce property deal. It sounds like an excellent museum but as I had so little time before my train, (and its not a National Trust property) I only viewed it from the outside.


Posted on October 28, 2017 at 7:00 PM

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Friday October 13, 2017

Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace

At last Alison and I went to Alexandra Palace together and I had such a good time I failed to take any pictures!
I did actually buy stuff this year though - a few minor things on a "list" (shirring elastic) - and some spontaneous buys egged on by Alison. She bought a retro pattern with "French darts" - which turn out to be very flattering apparently. We saw the dress made up in "bark cloth" (all new terms to me - and I thought I knew everything!), and so she also bought some of that - and of course made her dress up at home the very next day...


These items were all sold by the Eternal Maker who are based in Chichester and seem pretty well known now.

I was seduced by a Danish company's pattern for a very simple coat and scarf - they persuaded me to have the pattern although the size was too large ("easily altered" they said - which rather made me think that in fact pretty easy to create the entire design without a pattern but not really what I wanted to do!). I bought fabric from Mr Rosenberg* (as I do every year..) and have been dreaming of the outfit with a Rowan pattern scarf ever since.
[* Mr Rosenberg engaged me in a jovial debate about how much fabric to buy - engaging his entire family in the discussion..... almost as if he knows I never buy enough...].

Posted on October 13, 2017 at 11:06 AM

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Thursday October 12, 2017

The Real Thing


The poster makes this look like some Tennessee Williams play with hot steamy Southern nights filled with passion and longing. The play is rather far from that - and the way I see it is a simplistic view of an intellectual who thought he was above all that love stuff - describing and writing about love with wit and cynicism. During the play we see him made to care.
A nice tale with a moral. However the actual play... words and so on... are of course all wonderful Stoppard - full of wit and cynicism (in a Good Way). The speeches tumble out so fast* that my slow brain needed to be at its sharpest to keep up; in future maybe I need to read the script in advance as one does with Shakespeare!

* Rob was not enjoying it much by the interval and when I asked why said it was the "delivery" which I think was the same problem - but I have also read people complain that the large stage at the Rose give issues with audibility.

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 11:01 AM

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Thursday September 28, 2017

Strictly Murder


Difficult to say much about this play without being overly critical - and all the other regional reviews for this tour seem to have been extremely positive. So focusing on the positive: the acting was strong, and (like many "thriller" plays) there was a lot of "business" which they dealt with very well. It had a good plot, set in the past, which as the author (Brian Clemens) said, was necessary for the plot line to work. So it made for a good evening out but not a stunningly fantastic evening out.
Booked only because it had "murder" in the title, I suppose my expectations should have matched my lack of research. Still not sure why this title though.

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 11:01 AM

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Saturday September 23, 2017

Le Grand Mort


I booked this show with completely neutral expectations as we were up in town for the day (lunch with school friends). And I thought it was totally brilliant. However not for the homophobic, or those with an aversion to the naked male form - nor for Daily Mail readers as the paper predictably gave it a searing review, (being ridiculously rude about Julian Clary, who carries much of the show with great skill in my opinion).
However to my surprise some of the other reviews were less than flattering which must be very disappointing for the cast, even though a lot of the negativity seems to be directed at the script.
Whatever - I thought it was brilliant - and Clary received substantial praise from other esteemed actors - so there we are. I hope we can look forward to his moving forward with his acting career well outside of panto in the future.

Posted on September 23, 2017 at 10:59 AM

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Thursday August 17, 2017

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion


I went to this exhibition at the V&A (with my new friend Elaine - from Canada). The only bad thing was that we did not really leave ourselves enough time to see the other exhibits (jewellery) that I think Elaine would have been more interested in. But there is so much to see...! And she had only the one chance to go .. well.. for this trip anyway.

I'm not really very knowledgeable about fashion and it was very interesting to get to understand the shapes he was known for and how he subsequently influenced later designers. I took away the "make your own" leaflet, but can't see my following it through somehow!



Posted on August 17, 2017 at 11:08 AM

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Friday August 11, 2017

Quilt show at the NEC


Here is my hero Kaffe at the NEC signing copies of his latest book Quilts in Ireland - hot off the press it seems. Fabulous colourful quilts, beautifully photographed on location.

I made the spontaneous decision to join my new friend Elaine at the Quilt show. She was all booked up well in advance with a train trip to get there (probably the best way) and also with a short workshop in the morning. So I joined her at lunchtime and we mooched through the exhibits together in the afternoon. I have not been to the quilt show since it ceased to be part of the Knitting and Stitching show - and it was pretty wonderful as usual. I would probably take issue with some of the awards - but then how do you judge when everything is so fantastic in its own right?

Anyway - I had a great day in good company - and I just hope I didn't distract Elaine too much from the serious business of viewing the quilts.


Above is Oriental Thoughts by Kim Ranns - my sort of design - one day I might try something like it (but smaller!).
And below is the winner of the category for Secondary Schools & Groups of Young Quilters. The theme is "free" and the quilters were from the Burgess Hill Girls school, where the girls attended a 30 minute lunchtime club each week to create the chickens.


Posted on August 11, 2017 at 11:07 AM

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Sunday July 23, 2017



Here I am again in Cambridge having signed up for Anna's weaving course (again) - this time with my own agenda for starting a project on my loom - under careful supervision!
After having had the idea last year, I decided I would like to stay in one of the Cambridge colleges - my alter ego kicking in: "a student who accidentally got a job". Cambridge is pretty unfriendly to visitors with cars, but despite that (and with some reservations) I decided to stay right in the city. Tempted by Sidney Sussex, but in the end I went for St Catherines as the accommodation on offer for my dates was on site, and not in a modern student block. My concerns about parking and driving were not unwarranted, (I committed only 2 violations that I'm aware of though the signs seem to make the rules a complete mystery!), but overall parking was a bit easier than I imagined as I was able to leave quite early in the morning and return after 6:30pm.

Catz was great and I would recommend it to anyone. I had a shared bathroom, (which worked out fine), and the room was spacious and secluded with a pleasant view of the garden courtyard; the food was excellent - breakfast was included but an evening meal was also available if required.

Posted on July 23, 2017 at 12:48 PM

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Saturday July 8, 2017

Hampton Court Flower Show


George's verdict from lat year ["it wasn't as bad as I expected"] meant he was keen enough to take another trip this year. It did mean we spent more time looking at lawn mowers than I might have done otherwise, but overall was quite fun. I bought rather a lot of lavenders.

The gardens were lovely and of course these seaside gardens were the ones that I loved the most.


This is By the Sea designed by James Callicott; inspired by the coastline of Southend-on-Sea:


... and Fun on Sea:


Both of these gardens were built by young offenders from Southend who are trying to get back on their feet. Aren't they perfectly lovely?

Posted on July 8, 2017 at 4:35 PM

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Saturday July 1, 2017

Wind in the Willows


After the opening chorus I began to think this was a huge mistake. I booked the tickets through a nostalgia for the Wind in the Willows production at the NT in the 1990s and of course it did not bear comparison. However that was my own stupidity as this quickly won me over, being something of a kids pantomime - with the usual clever jokes on two levels for both kids and adults. Rob commented at the interval that it was "utterly charming" - and he was very smitten by the costumes (as was I) since they were not so much dressed as animals but more wearing artistic representations of their characters.

Posted on July 1, 2017 at 10:28 PM

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Their Mortal Remains


Rob and I spent the day in London. He was keen to see the Pink Floyd exhibition - so we were at the V&A for its grand opening of the new entrance in Exhibition Road (and we duly used it). The exhibition itself demonstrated a fantastic use of multimedia - well the subject rather lends itself to it - and I think it's actually worth spending more time on it than we did (which we could as I joined as a member while we were there). Rob however was strangely less impressed; I think it's perhaps because he has been such a fan through all that time of Pink Floyd's existence, he was somehow expecting "more" - when in fact he probably has seen, heard, and done it all already.

Rather excitingly (!) on the way to our next appointment at the London Palladium, we were able to join in with a protest march. It quite took me back.... and I think the same could be said of a number of the other participants - I felt quite at home with them all.


you get the idea...


Posted on July 1, 2017 at 10:15 PM

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Sunday June 25, 2017

The way home - Moseley Old Hall

By the time I got to Wolverhampton it was early afternoon (not a cue for a song, sadly, although I'm sure it would have been a great one) and had just come on to rain. My destination was Moseley Old Hall, an Elizabethan farmhouse described as "atmospheric" - which it certainly was.


I think it has rather lovely grounds and gardens but the weather was a bit grim for that kind of thing so I just snapped a couple of photos while waiting to start my tour of the house. This Knot Garden was constructed it in 1962 using a 17th-century design.


The main deal here is priest holes etc and the fact that Charles II hid in the house after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Indeed we started the tour entering the house through the same door used by him on his arrival, and later described in his memories of his escape dictated to Samuel Pepys. Although the tour is very geared towards kids, (as "50 things to do before you're 11 ¾ "), it was seriously one of the most exciting tours I have ever had at an NT property, narrated most passionately by one of the guides.
Rather charmingly Charles seemed to have remembered (and substantially rewarded) all those that helped him escape in this period once he was restored to the throne in 1660. Not necessarily a trait associated with monarchs.

I managed a cream tea (ok just a tea) but I could not linger, as there was quite a way still to go. I paused to buy a few plants from the shop - I like to do this at NT properties when they are on offer - including a myrtle, a plant I never remember having seen before. Jennie tells me it is tender, which might be why, but it seems subsequently to have done quite well in its new pot.

Posted on June 25, 2017 at 11:09 PM

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The way home - Keld

After 2 full days at Woolfest I was able to set off very early in the morning and take in 2 National Trust properties instead of one. The first was Keld Chapel and relatively close at hand (Shap - 40 miles away).


Getting there was interesting - I followed the satnav using the postcode provided and ended up in a little close of houses in Shap (modern updates on stone cottages). I felt sure the chapel would be nestled in somewhere but I could not find it and my car was starting to be stared at ("you don't live here do you?"); anyway instead of sensibly asking someone (too embarrassed), I found that the NT website has google maps instructions, which took me right there. My original position may well have been close as the crow flies but was miles away by road. And what a road it was. Single track with high stone walls either side so totally trusting to luck not to meet anyone coming the other way.
Having got there though - the village was lovely (you can see mini in the picture parked just down the road - where it was wider!). Entry to the chapel was by means of a key hanging on the wall of a local cottage:


And once inside - it was so beautifully cool and peaceful. The interior is rustic, and the crumbling structure had left a thin deposit of fragments on the pews. This is not a sign of neglect, just what happens in old rustic buildings that have been put to varying uses over the centuries.


Here is a little bit of the history taken from other sites:
The date of construction of Keld Chapel is unknown; it may have been a medieval chantry chapel of the nearby Shap Premonstratensian Abbey or it may have been a simple chapel of ease with no connection to the abbey. The first documentary evidence referring to Keld Chapel records a christening here in 1672. Towards the end of the 17th century the chapel ceased to be used for religious purposes and was converted into a house. In 1897 the building was repaired and during the 20th century it was passed to the National Trust. You can read a very interesting academic paper which really concludes that the only evidence it was ever a chapel at all is in the persistence of the name.

There was a lot of interesting local information on a noticeboard inside about the history of the chapel, and attempts to have it pulled down, (letters to Parliament and so on). Given that it was saved, these are very amusing. When it had ceased to be inhabited in the 1800s, Lord Lonsdale wanted the road to be widened enough to take a hay wagons through, and dismissed the claims that the building had any historic significance as a chapel. It's quite ironic looking at the village now. The road through it "goes nowhere" (more on that in a moment) and the requirement for road widening seems to have evaporated.

Being somewhat loathe to go back down the single track road the way I had come (and did I mention the bicycle race?) I decided to explore the road out of the village the other way. The satnav had it as a possibility but there are many notices saying that the road is unsafe (crevices and weak bridge). I was suspicious that it was the large company that owns the land trying to stop people using the road but in the end I was too nervous to go on very far (even when an SUV passed me coming from the opposite direction).

Yesterday I nipped into Keswick in the morning on a mission to visit the Herdy shop, and get more petrol. I decided to go over the hills at the mercy of the satnav - and it was all going splendidly - beautiful weather and scenery - until I came to a sign out of the blue saying "road closed". As above - loathe to just retrace my steps, I struck off in another direction which led me on a very winding road through 2 gates (I did not know that was even possible on public roads!) and using up a lot of petrol with very little progress towards civilisation - and leaving me panicking the entire journey about being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
So these previous adventures were quite enough for me, and I set off back to the motorway as I had arrived.

Posted on June 25, 2017 at 11:06 PM

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Thursday May 25, 2017

Wetlands and Ham House

We did a morning trip to the Wetlands in Barnes so Rob could yet again try and see the Kingfishers - but no dice. We did see a lot of other fine birds though, and had a chat with one of the volunteers who had a lot of interesting information to impart.

We then went on to visit Ham House.


Rob had been there dancing with the Morris men a week or two ago and was so impressed we decided to go and see the house properly. It was fascinating for me, as I have recently taken more interest in the Tudors and not bothered so much about the English Civil War and subsequent Restoration.
The house was originally built in 1610 and then much altered and improved by William Murray, who received it as a gift from Charles I, with whom he was a close friend and associate. However it was his daughter Elizabeth who is the most prominent in the overall story, as throughout the Parliamentarian years she kept good relations with Cromwell whilst also belonging to the Sealed Knot, and secretly supporting Charles II in France.
The house remained in the hands of the family for 300 years with the NT acquiring it in 1948, which is how it has remained so wonderfully preserved.

We took the tour of the Queen's apartments which again totally fascinated me as it appeared to have the original (400 year old or so) textiles, which were indescribably vivid as they were not so exposed to sunlight.
It seems amazing to me that I spent so many years working in Richmond and never visited before.

Posted on May 25, 2017 at 1:09 PM

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Thursday April 13, 2017

Flying Scotsman at the Bluebell


So Flying Scotsman snuck in overnight on Tuesday, where a few dedicated souls stayed up to see it - and we were there bright and early to watch the pipe band for the first official journey - and then later on for our trip.


What a fantastic day.

Posted on April 13, 2017 at 8:11 AM

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Tuesday April 4, 2017

Rosenkranz and Guildenstern


It was a bit of a trauma getting here (realising I was booked a hotel in Stratford on business when I had actually got theatre tickets in London) but well worth the effort. As the reviewers all tell us - it's 50 years since it was first produced and stands up excellently - almost "despite" all the hype. A lot of the publicity seems to focus on Daniel Radcliffe as Rosenkranz (probably), but Joshua McGuire's Guildenstern (probably) is no second fiddle, and David Haig is terrific as the stagey "Player".

Now it's time to prepare myself to be up at the crack of dawn to drive back to Warwick.

Posted on April 4, 2017 at 11:25 PM

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Friday March 17, 2017



We spent the day at Ditchling as George noticed the Craft museum there had an exhibition on natural dyeing around Ethel Mairet's legacy. It's a relatively small space - with small displays - but has a working remit to revive old crafts as part of a living museum, with dedicated work and library spaces. The workshops are not limited to dyeing, weaving, and knitting but other crafts - stemming from the Guild founded by Eric Gill, Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute in the 1920s. This artistic community experimented with communal life and self-sufficiency and thus many artists were drawn to Ditchling. The Guild continued until 1989, at which time its affairs were wound up and its workshops demolished.
The museum itself was founded in 1985, but underwent a massive transformation from 2007, finally reopening in 2013 with much praise for its architectural design.

I was fascinated by the displays of weaving from the 1950s, including curtain designs and samples for the Festival Hall, and a cloak used in Ben Hur (with photos of Chuck himself sporting it in the film).


Ditchling has a great "tea room" where we had lunch; my sausage sandwich was so impressive that we followed directions to the farm to buy those very sausages to take home. The farm included a small collection of fancy fowl:


Next we went up (to) Ditchling Beacon (had to be done) where I managed to squeeze down an ice cream - purchased from an optimistic but lonely man in a van perched on the summit - and despite the bitingly cold wind.


Finally we went to see "Jack and Jill" - a pair of windmills which enjoyed a high profile reputation in my youth to the extent that whenever any windmill was on the horizon in Sussex, someone would say knowledgeably "that's Jack and Jill" (yes, even to solitary ones...). Disappointingly it (Jill) only opens on Sundays. You can see Jack (privately owned) in the distance minus his sails.


Posted on March 17, 2017 at 7:30 AM

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Wednesday February 1, 2017

Soane Museum


My sister suggested another 'birthday treat' and we visited Sir John Soane's House - now a museum. He was one of those interesting eccentrics who collected wonderful items - some exceedingly rare - such that after his death his property was retained, restored and expanded to make the museum.
It was most famous to me for housing the Rakes Progress - but it seems you have to be on a guided tour in order to be allowed to see it - and the timing or even existence of the tours seemed to be akin to the description of the eponymous Three Men (not yet in the boat) trying to find the right train out of Waterloo - so we did not... (see it), though the 4 paintings of the Humours of an Election were on display. Several items seemed to be absent from the collection at the time we visited - but then entry is free so one can hardly complain.

We then went for lunch in China Town, which was great, although sadly the restaurant we had planned to visit had disappeared from the area in the 20 years since we last went there (!).

Posted on February 1, 2017 at 10:58 AM

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Saturday January 28, 2017



So this was a treat I booked for myself - an afternoon of craft learning macrame - which I have longed to try ever since 1976. It's actually much simpler than I thought - in so far as, like knitting, you only have to learn 2 stitches and you know the whole thing (in theory!).
The class was very friendly - run by the London Craft Club in a space provided at the Museum of London - and this was the result (a small thing but mine own.... YES it is supposed to look like that...):


This was the 1970s magazine article that inspired me all those years ago, but sadly I had very little imagination at that time so failed to just go ahead and "do it".


I finished my excellent day by going out with a team of 5 fellow quizzers to a fish and chip supper and charity quiz run by the Tadworth Children's Trust.
We did not win... :o(

Posted on January 28, 2017 at 10:55 AM

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Sunday January 22, 2017



It seems I am set fair for a week of birthday treats - and this is the first.

Rob has joined the Wetlands Trust and had such a great time he thought I needed to go too - I thought this was a trip to the Docklands area but in fact it is quite local in Barnes. One key thing was to go "while the Lego birds were still on display" which resulted in some photos that look at first glance to be very pixelated until you remember what they are.


I saw several life birds - and after being shown a Jack Snipe through a spotting scope from one hide, I proudly managed to find one (or "the same one") myself through my own glasses from another. We saw a couple of standard Snipe, which I have to admit is also a life bird. There were 2 bitterns but photos are of the "take my word for it that's a bittern" variety.

The Wetlands also boast a pair of otters from Asia which are a great attraction at feeding time (and being from warmer climes, really did not like putting their paws in the water!).

We had to co-ordinate the day out with the weather, and we were lucky to have a really fine day - cold but very sunny and most importantly without the bitter wind.

We rounded the day out by eating pasta at Jamie's in Richmond.

Posted on January 22, 2017 at 11:02 AM

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Friday December 16, 2016

Nice Fish


Tis the season.
This had mixed reviews but I think only because you have to be of the right mind set to enjoy it. That's not an elitist remark, but it's just like many forms of humour that are both loathed and also have huge cult following. I think the main complaint was that it was not "about anything" - which was (more than) fine if that's what you were expecting.
I enjoyed it hugely and the icy wasteland of a set was fantastic.

"Kookily compelling." Daily Telegraph

Posted on December 16, 2016 at 11:05 AM

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Sunday December 11, 2016

Red Shoes


Another Sadlers Wells production - wonderful (of course) - but I have to admit in terms of "plot" it was not what I expected, being a representation of a film which I have never seen. I thought it was a traditional folk tale so when Rob kept saying "I wonder if they will have the train" I thought he must be a bit confused - but it turned out that the confusion was entirely mine.

Posted on December 11, 2016 at 11:05 AM

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Saturday December 10, 2016

Seasonal fun


Morris Men in Kingston "annoying Santa" (!)


Posted on December 10, 2016 at 4:55 PM

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Saturday October 8, 2016

Good Canary


I got these tickets as it was playing locally at the Rose in Kingston... and John Malkovich is a good director ... and I thought it looked interesting.
Turned out it was quite amazing and has been playing to rave reviews. A lot of the reviewers attribute this all to Malkovich - but I would say the set and staging were most innovative, the script itself was sharp, and the actors were astonishing - especially Freya Mavor who is brilliant - and variously described as a newcomer.

I have also seen more critical reviews saying the play "lacks shape" and makes a better film, but actually I thought the staging was brilliant, managing to capture indoors and out (as well inside and outside the psyche) by using projections and very little in the way of scenery and props.

Posted on October 8, 2016 at 11:48 PM

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Saturday October 1, 2016

Grand Stash Sale


This is our rather optimistic attempt at a stash sale. Unfortunately it was a really poor day from the perspective of the weather and we did not get many people through the doors. However I thought it went well enough and we all had fun - and we even sold some stuff. Even I - who went home with virtually all I came with (which you can see was quite some stash!) - managed to sell enough to cover the cost of my table.

Posted on October 1, 2016 at 3:33 PM

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Saturday August 20, 2016

Creative Fibres 25th Year

Another little lunch party to celebrate our 25th year - with our very own member's Ukulele band.


And though not so clear in the photo .... we all sang along... a very eclectic mix of musical eras....


Posted on August 20, 2016 at 3:27 PM

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Friday August 19, 2016



An interesting evening out - and were the Mill at Sonning a bit closer to home I might venture there a little more often. As it is it's quite a way to go.
The evening included a pre-theatre meal and we met up with some old colleagues and friends whom I had not seen for ages which was fun.

The theatrical performance was interesting - rather larger than life and in truth projected slightly too much for the space - which was fairly intimate. I liked it for the set and staging which were meant to be a tongue in cheek look at Agatha Christie in theatre. I really liked this review in the Telegraph which rather said it all; it is I suppose a moderately negative review but emphasises that the play is staged as being "from a simpler time" - and the comment that it features "the least convincing death you'll see onstage this year" is not as damning as it sounds since I am absolutely certain it was meant to have everyone rolling in the aisles otherwise it could all easily have happened off-stage.

I suspect I have read the book but cannot remember it. What I do remember is the fairly excellent TV dramatisation which included Poirot (as written in the book), while Christie's stage play version excluded him. This stage version is apparently closer to the book than the TV version where the murderer is a very sympathetic character and the entire situation created by the victim around all the characters has great poignancy and almost the qualities of a theatrical "tragedy" about it.

Posted on August 19, 2016 at 6:02 PM

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Saturday August 13, 2016

Deep Blue Sea


I was dubious about seeing this play - I bought tickets as it is the National and with a great cast and reviews it seemed a good thing to do. However I thought that although it might be great art it would be too sad for me to really enjoy.
What I was forgetting was that this is Rattigan who achieved great popularity back in the day for a very good reason. The play was very accessible and stunningly acted. The characters had you with them through all the distress and poignancy (and even real humour) to what was a very uplifting ending without sacrificing any of the realism of the plot.
So really fantastic performances from all and I am so glad that I did not talk myself out of it.

Posted on August 13, 2016 at 5:50 PM

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Saturday August 6, 2016



We went on a day trip to Rye. (I am somewhat embarrassed to say it was in order to pick up a 4 shaft Harris loom that I bought immediately after my weaving course - whoever would have predicted that?! More on that another day perhaps; for now, suffice to say it's lovely).
Anyway we made of it a good "day out", visiting Lamb House, which is most prominently celebrated by the National Trust (quite rightly) as a home of the author Henry James. In fact my, and most of the population's, interest in it is due to its other literary resident: E F Benson. If he were not already a firm part of popular culture, interest in him was rekindled by the most recent TV series of "Mapp and Lucia" - for which they used Lamb House. Good though the series was, for me no dramatisation can top the 1980s series with Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales, Nigel Hawthorne and co - it was also set in Rye though they staged the interior shots in the studio. For the recent series they actually rebuilt (mocked up) the "Garden Room" at Lamb House as the original was destroyed by a bomb in WW2.


The recreation was more like a conservatory extension on the back of the house, unlike the original which was separate from the main house and entered only via the garden. As Benson (and James) used it as his writing room he imagined Mapp doing most of her spying, from its large bay window, which had a view right down the street. You can see that Lamb House is on a corner so the Garden Room was oriented at right angles to, and to the left of, the main front of the house.


After a splendid (and huge) crab salad lunch at Fletchers House. we went on to Scotney Castle - another National Trust property. We toured the house ... where ridiculously enough I was most impressed by the 1950s kitchen that the last inhabitant had installed and used as her main living area.... and the gardens - but in the end failed to find room for a cream tea despite adventures including sliding down banks in the quarry garden and lost sunglasses.

Finally, for our last act of tourism, I persuaded G to stop off again on the way home to see the Chagall windows at Tudeley. Always a wonderful experience.

Posted on August 6, 2016 at 10:22 AM

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Sunday July 31, 2016



We went to see Startrek Beyond in 3D. First visit to the iMax. Excellent.

Posted on July 31, 2016 at 10:30 PM

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Saturday July 30, 2016

Houghton House

...and Fibre East

On the way back from Cambridge, I diverted to Flitwick to go to Fibre East, which was quite as pleasing as I had been led to believe.
Some of the Guild were also there (day trip) and I had lunch with Kate and Georgia.
I'm afraid I did succumb to an "anonymous" fleece from the sheep rescue centre. [I started processing it immediately but it's a long job - fine and with a lovely sheen but also a lot of lanolin!]

I noticed an enticing brown sign in the vicinity and was further diverted to visit Houghton House. I knew nothing about the house and so was quite surprised to find it to be a deserted ruin.


Originally commissioned by Mary Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke in 1615 on land granted to her by James I (r.1603-25), it underwent many changes by its various owners until 1794 when it was ordered to be dismantled by the 5th Duke of Bedford. The ruins survived as a garden feature in the grounds of nearby Ampthill Park, and it is now administered as an ancient monument by English Heritage.
Truly a wonderful chance find.

Posted on July 30, 2016 at 3:20 PM

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Friday July 29, 2016

End of Term


Well having been so focused all week it certainly felt like end of term. Here we all are on our final day.
I can thoroughly recommend this school to any one (who wants to do a class obviously); it is extremely well run, teaching, facilities, and catering were excellent ...and my comrades were very nice too which always helps.

Posted on July 29, 2016 at 2:51 PM

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Wednesday July 27, 2016

Cambridge Tour


This evening Anna took a couple of us on a tour of the colleges. The last time I was there must have been in 1978 with a friend who had studied there, and I remember little of it. It was a lovely evening and rounded off with a delightful meal at the Punter

Posted on July 27, 2016 at 9:32 PM

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Monday July 25, 2016

Cottenham Summer School

Months ago I signed up for what has turned out to be the most wonderful course "Weaving on a Four Shaft Loom". Far too much to discuss but below is an album of photos of our work during the week.

Posted on July 25, 2016 at 8:41 PM

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Wednesday July 13, 2016

Lepage at the Barbican


This has to be one of the best things I have seen for a very long time. I might say possibly "ever" but how can one compare all pieces of theatre? I was expecting that it might be overly arty, but - unlike the recent dance piece I saw - it was very accessible with a relatively simple theme (a broken heart) - just beautifully and innovatively staged. Unfortunately it was only on for a week at the Barbican and this seems to have been the last venue in the tour.

The actual title of the piece is Needles and Opium but I didn't want to get any unsavoury characters excited by using it as a title. Originally inspired by the life of Jean Cocteau, the restaged version introduced Miles Davis. This piece in the Guardian tells you more about Lepage and his work.

Posted on July 13, 2016 at 9:34 AM

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Saturday July 9, 2016

Hampton Court Flower Show


George and I went to Hampton Court this year - a rather spur of the moment decision. The couple above clothed from head to toe in hedging completely fascinated me - we were both amazed at how hot they must have been - I was a bit late in snapping them unfortunately.
I spotted them while looking at this conceptual garden - I liked it a lot but the photo I managed to take is not actually showing it very well - the cut outs revealed an inner core. Called simply "Why?" it was sponsored by Rolawn Ltd, designed by Tony Smith and built by Hortus Infinitus. It "depicts the complexity and wonder of the universe and human brain", apparently, but very impressive whatever the inspiration.


Overall quite a pleasing day out - George's verdict "it wasn't as bad as I expected" (!) and he was able to take his new car for a trip out. I was going to go large on buying plants but only managed 2 clematis (and even then had trouble finding a spot for them in the garden when I got back) - all the roses I wanted (For Your Eyes Only, Birthday Girl) had sold out - all my own roses currently have black spot so maybe no bad thing to delay planting new ones.

Posted on July 9, 2016 at 5:10 PM

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Wednesday July 6, 2016



Had a rather hectic evening out at Sadlers Wells with my sister - who had spent most of the day battling with traffic. We both found it a rather extraordinary evening of dance.

Barbarians is a trilogy by Hofesh Shechter: three wildly different takes on intimacy, passion and the banality of love - apparently - not wholly clear but that did not really matter.

Revealing his choreography at its most elegant and intimate, the barbarians in love opens the evening. Six white-clad figures move as one to the strains of an ecclesiastic baroque score. This world is soon exploded when innocence is lost, and its trance-like dup-step grooves transition into the final piece, a darkly emotional duet.

Posted on July 6, 2016 at 11:36 PM

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Saturday May 28, 2016

The Threepenny Opera


I realised that I had never actually seen this production before - although Rob seems to have seen it and staged it a number of times in the past. Excellent of course as you expect from this cast at the National.
Read the review in the FT here, and then - since this is the start of the run for a change - get your tickets here.

As we often seem to - we spent the afternoon at the British Museum "Sunken Cities". The main message of the exhibition was the "remarkable relationship between the major ancient civilisations of Egypt and Greece" which was excellently illustrated. The sunken cities were Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus [and in case you were wondering Thonis was the Egyptian name and Heracleion the Greek name for the same city - so good they named it twice].
I found it fascinating though it's not been universally acclaimed, suggesting there is "not much there"; however it kept us well occupied for 2 hours and even left us pretty tired (not as young as used to be etc etc even though Rob keeps pretty fit with his dancing!). There was the usual perfect BM use of multi media, showing film of the items in situ under water as they were found. The larger exhibits were impressively, well, BIG - but there were also a lot of detailed smaller items - perhaps the negative reviewers missed them...?!


So that gives you an idea of the scale - and yes! he (with his sister-wife) was there... fully reassembled, upright, and largely complete.

Posted on May 28, 2016 at 4:30 PM

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Friday April 29, 2016

Nell Gwynn


This is a great play - energetic and uplifting. ".....merry dances and a dog!". Indeed.

Sadly though the transfer is right at the end of its run - next up at the Apollo is "The Go-Between" - a musical version with Michael Crawford.

Posted on April 29, 2016 at 1:06 PM

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Thursday February 11, 2016

Single Spies


It's my Dad's birthday - or would have been - so I thought this would be a fun day out - but overall it was a bit less fun than I hoped.

I have seen these plays before, both on TV and on the stage, and to be honest I wasn't very keen on this version. I didn't like the portrayal of Coral Brown or Guy Burgess - which has nothing to do with the skill of the actors. It all seemed a bit brash whereas I thought the characters should be a bit more thoughtful and awkward, and leave you with that deep sense of poignancy and loss.

I was also a bit cheesed off as we went all the way to Chichester only to find that it is touring to Richmond which would have been more convenient - plus the restaurant at Chichester theatre is undergoing a major refit so everything was "orf" for some time to come - and not a single reference on the printed tickets, which actually went as far as recommending eating at the (closed) restaurant.
Finally - the laugh being on us - admittedly we did go to a matinee, but the ENTIRE audience was elderly. I really have never been to a theatre before that was utterly packed wall to wall with the over 60s - if not over 70s. At one point Rob said something to imply there was no-one else like us in the audience whereupon I have to point out that we were in fact firmly in that demographic, clutching our "seniors" tickets as we spoke.

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 7:48 PM

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Thursday November 19, 2015

ATP tennis at the O2 - again


Another grand day out watching Federer win his match at the O2. I also enjoyed watching the Bryans win, though that was tempered by the fact that they were beating Jamie Murray and John Peers - who were frustratingly close to winning the champions tie-break at 9-5... [Though it could be argued they deserved to lose allowing a lead like that to slip away.]

This years knitting was a nice plain sock - which I was very discreet about after the tirade that ensued at Wimbledon when a commentator spotted a woman spectator with her knitting.

Posted on November 19, 2015 at 12:15 PM

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Sunday October 25, 2015

Trip to Lewes WSD Open Day


Time for the biennial open day at the Lewes Guild. Again I did not manage to find anything much to buy. Little Grey Sheep were there an I bought another small bag of Stein; I was very tempted by a rigid heddle loom but decided this was not a purchase to make on the spur of the moment.
We watched a demo of Navaho spindle spinning - but although it seems very relaxing I am not going to take it up with any gusto. It seems to be based around long draw, and thus the preparation of the rollag is key.

Posted on October 25, 2015 at 8:03 AM

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Thursday October 8, 2015

Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace


Only a view of the lovely autumn colours in the park this year. The show itself seemed to lack lustre - I can't put my finger on why - there seemed to be a good choice of products and vendors, and the Guilds were there - just lacked the energy and excitement of previous visits. I did think that perhaps this was because it's the first time I went without Sheila, but it seems there are a lot of similar comments on Ravelry.
[And I bought nothing - really nothing...]

Posted on October 8, 2015 at 8:27 PM

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Saturday July 18, 2015

Clash of cultures


Interesting combination of activities today. We started with an afternoon a lecture at the British Museum followed by the actual exhibition on indigenous Australian art. It left me quite inspired to try some of the designs either woven or patchwork.

I have had it in mind to make a simple weaving frame (too much reading in Golden Hands Crafts) which is designed for tapestry weaving. I had intended to use it for making a piece of fabric but I was only against the idea of a tapestry as it was not a form of art that interested me. I am now rethinking this as I am inspired with designs I would like to make. Here is a wonderful depiction of Magpie Geese.


They also had pituri bags which looks perfect for a crochet project - in fact they looked like they were crocheted though I am fairly convinced without research that the technique is a kind of woven knotting as used in the basket weaving. Also - in terms of their function as a bag - I could not see any openings!


After a lengthy tea break in the member's room we spent about an hour looking at the Napoleon "prints and propaganda" exhibition and then went on to eat near Sadlers Wells before seeing Matthew Bourne's Car Man - which was utterly brilliant and fantastic as we have come to take for granted. Wonderful uplifting music from Bizet and amazing dancing.


I was actually a bit late meeting Rob [one might say "as usual"!] because I met a Pearly Queen on the underground and had to take pictures....


... then a man stepped backwards on to me as I was getting on the tube, causing me to step back while the doors closed, and swear violently - all of which "the man" seemed to find very amusing... observing me still on the platform from his position on the train....

... and did I mention the dog? ... it ate my homework...

Posted on July 18, 2015 at 7:25 AM

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Saturday June 27, 2015

Woolfest 2015

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Posted on June 27, 2015 at 1:49 PM

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Wednesday May 6, 2015

Workshows remembered.


"This exhibition displays some of the practical work achieved by students of the courses over the 30 years that it has been my privilege to teach in this college." - Rob Muller

This evening I joined Rob for the grand opening of his very own exhibition at Croydon College. He has been building up and preparing for this event for over year, collating hundreds of photographs of his students' work, (plus other memorabilia), collected throughout his teaching career.


As you might expect, a large number of former students from all eras joined him, creating a wonderful atmosphere, as many of them were meeting up with each other for the first time since their days at the college. They also wandered around the new (and old) college classrooms reminiscing about their time there.


Since the exhibition, many former students have got in touch with Rob on Facebook - and if you want to look at a rather better set of photos - Rob is posting Workshow pictures on his facebook page - a photo a day.


Here's the full text of Rob's words for the exhibition hand-out:

I joined the staff in the Theatre Department at Croydon College in April 1985, just in time to help mount the Spring Term exhibition of second-year students' work that had come to be called Workshow. Individual students had chosen costumes, portions of a setting, or large props from their designs, completed in the previous term to be realised to full scale. Lighting students designed the lighting for each piece in the hall and the production team undertook the responsibility of technically presenting the exhibition to the public for a week in March. I was staggered at the scale and ambition of this exercise - and these students were only half way through their three-year sandwich HND course.
In the summer term, these same second-year students became a production team collaborating with a performance company to mount a new contemporary ballet at the Secombe Centre Theatre in Sutton. They designed and constructed setting, costumes and lighting. My role as lighting and production tutor was to support these realised productions.
Over the next two years, while I undertook an in-house Cert Ed, I was heavily involved in rewriting the course for BTEC validation. This successful course ran until the mid 90's, firmly establishing Croydon College's reputation for producing theatre design students with very strong practical skills.
In the late 80's, the department gained a lecture room, which was converted into a second venue named "The Peter Jackman Studio Theatre" (in commemoration of a talented lighting student, who helped design the space).
Workshows were finally phased out in the mid to late 90's as the course was revalidated as BA and Foundation Degree courses and the emphasis shifted to end-of-year degree shows.
In the early 2000's, a parallel digital film degree course was established and, after completing an MA in Computer Arts, I started teaching camera and editing on this course as well as lighting and production on the Theatre courses. In 2010, sadly, the Theatre course was discontinued and all the department's resources were concentrated on the current film-making courses.
This exhibition displays some of the practical work achieved by students of the courses over the 30 years that it has been my privilege to teach in this college.

Posted on May 6, 2015 at 10:27 PM

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Sunday March 22, 2015

Kempton Steam Museum


Rob's Morris side danced at the museum. This entry is a bit of a cheat as I wasn't actually there (!) there but the pictures are so excellent I wanted to include them here. Seems like it's well worth a visit.

The waterworks at Kempton opened in 1897 and the pair of triple-expansion steam engines were at the cutting edge of water pumping technology when they were installed in 1927-28; they supplied 39 million gallons of water to North London. One of these Worthington-Simpson Triples has been restored to working order and the other is maintained as a static display for guided tours.


Posted on March 22, 2015 at 11:50 PM

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Thursday March 5, 2015



Helen took me to the Shard Oblix as a special treat for a special year's birthday.
And it was wonderful!


Not only the views but the food... mmmm.... I am (partly) ashamed to say we visited the buffet for appetisers 4 times... However, that may not be as bad as it sounds, since it was full of many appetising little morsels which gave one plenty of opportunity to have many tasters without being greedy. [But I was greedy... a bit... maybe.]

After all that excitement we managed to roll ourselves out of the restaurant and visit Borough Market. It's bursting with wonderful food choices and I finally decided to buy some rib-eye steak - so George would not feel too left out.

Posted on March 5, 2015 at 9:31 PM

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Friday January 30, 2015

The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die


Rob, Tony and I went to the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London. I expected to have a fun afternoon there but it was particularly impressive - I think one of the best (or only) truly multimedia exhibitions I have ever seen. Everything they chose to display was fascinating in its own right - and being a fictitious character they were able to roam across many aspects of Victorian life: the emerging concept of a detective (in real life and fiction); theatrical, film and TV manifestations of the characters; Victorian London as depicted in art, as well as Sidney Paggett's original drawings; recreations of Holmes' journeys across London - then, and as it is today; "technology" display cabinets on subjects ranging from chemistry to the changing role of women in taking up typists jobs outside the house.
There were quizes and code cracking - which Tony managed to complete without even blinking (though Rob and I helped collect the clues!) - plus nice staff members to help if you got stuck.

Here's a great picture of the outside of the museum which happens to show Anthony Horowitz, whom I regard with great fondness owing to his creation of Foyles War and his imaginative Holmes books. [I am guessing this is a publicity tour for his book "Moriarity", which was a Christmas gift and is sitting waiting for me at home.]


After this we went across town for a pint in the Sherlock Holmes pub at Charing Cross, followed by a meal at The Delaunay, where Cathy joined us for dinner.

A thorough satisfactory and memorable day out.

[I am already anticipating the "Crime Museum Uncovered" at the museum from October]

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 6:23 PM

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Thursday January 29, 2015

ISIHAC and the Mary Rose


To celebrate my birthday, we went to Portsmouth to see "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" - the roadshow. If you know what that is then you will know how it was - if you don't know what it is, then I am not able to explain. All I can say is that we received a free lesson in using the kazoo (also free).
We ate at The Wine Vaults, conveniently opposite the Kings Theatre at Southsea, and then went on to stay at the Royal Maritime Club near the dockyard - our venue for the next day.

Encouraged by a heart-felt speech from Sandi Toksvig during QI, we went to visit the Mary Rose museum, and it proved to be as astonishing as promised. I remember being amazed visiting the Vasa* years ago when I was in Sweden, which made me expect to like this exhibition as well.
I think the Mary Rose has much more in the way of salvaged content - including (100s of ) longbows** packed in cases, and apparently not waterlogged. Most of the other artefacts have to be dried out and specially treated for preservation before being examined or put on display - and there are thousands of items still to be dealt with. Personal remains have been found for many of the crew - only about 25 of the hundreds on board are known to have survived. They have reconstructed some of the faces of the departed, both in 3D and drawings, and are able to surmise who they were based on where they were found and the personal belongings found with them. There is even the skeleton of some poor old terrier stuck on board with his master.
In the days after our visit I saw a TV program about the raising of the Mary Rose - low expectations as I expected it to be about the engineering feat of bringing it to the surface, which I remember quite well seeing as it happened. However, it was really interesting - all about the preservation efforts and combined footage from other programs over the years as the scientific research progressed. It provided an excellent codicil to our visit.

In the afternoon we took a trip up the Spinnaker tower where I had an obligatory cream tea in the cafe, and we were able to observe not only the view but the most astonishing changes in the weather pattern over a period of only about 40 minutes. It makes you see the dangers of sailing a small boat off our coasts when things can change so rapidly.


* The Vasa sank in similar circumstances to the Mary Rose at a similar point in history. [I actually thought that like the Vasa, the Mary Rose sank on her maiden voyage but in fact she had been in service for 34 years and it was the first engagement after a refit.]. Reading the Vasa's website I remain curious as to why they do not seem to have had quite so many issues raising it from the sea bed and preserving it going forward.
** The information on the longbows was the most surprising to me:
"There had been no large scale evidence of what a medieval longbow looked like, how it was made and how it shot, until the Mary Rose find. Similarly there was no large scale catalogue of Medieval archery equipment such as arrows, pouches, bracers, belts, buckles, or personal items. At a stroke this vast inventory has become available for all to see. It is a most stunning collection."

Posted on January 29, 2015 at 6:21 PM

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Thursday January 1, 2015

England and St George


We went for lunch with my sister and visited the local hostelry in Selborne to see the Mummers play. It was lots of fun but due to the intimacy of the stage area in the bar I was not able to get very good photos. Costumes were wonderful - acting may have been mildly affected by the preceding visits to other hostelries in the area.....


After a noble struggle the Turk is vanquished!
[Don't worry the doctor soon revived him.]


Posted on January 1, 2015 at 10:03 AM

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Tuesday October 14, 2014



So we were treated to an outing to the Guiness Factory while attending a conference in Dublin. I think we all had a great evening - part of which was learning to pour the perfect pint. Here a colleague concentrates on the task at hand. I also duly tried my hand and received the certificate to prove it.


Posted on October 14, 2014 at 10:50 AM

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Sunday September 28, 2014

The Big O


An old friend from school was over from Canada (where he now lives) and celebrated his big O birthday in Worthing. Hard to take a good photo of him as he was opening his gifts since he seemed permanently overcome with emotion...!


It was a delightful day out with the usual suspects and some extra faces - who I have not seen for an unbelievable 42 years...

Posted on September 28, 2014 at 9:19 AM

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Thursday September 25, 2014

Yan Tan Tethera - Spin Cycle


All summer (apparently) there has been an exhibition and season of events inspired by textiles and folk, centred around Cecil Sharp House in Camden. We caught the last of these "Spin Cycle", which was a multimedia show including a selection of textile and sampling machines, beatboxers, textile artists, Gaelic and English traditional songs: "weaving a unique sonic world to celebrate all things textile".


Around the venue were various related projects including a set of murals (adorning the bar) by Stewart Easton depicting the story of the Tailor and the Crow. There are a lot of versions of this story and they seem to be rather glum and convoluted - there were some versions of the old verse framed in the stairwell. Here is a more cheerful version available as an eBook from Project Gutenberg.


The stairwell was also dressed with a cobweb of lace - it was actually really a performing arts installation I think - more interesting to view in the construction than the result. Unfortnately I can find only an audio track (sung during the weaving) available on the web.

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 2:19 PM

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Wednesday August 27, 2014

Matisse - The Cut-Outs


Managed to catch this wonderful exhibition before it closed. I think most things that can be said have been said by others - one being how roughly the work is done, and that the shapes are covered in pin holes where they were moved many times before a final decision on position. But there were some new things for me - one relating to the roughness of the work - it seems much of the art was designs for other media, for example, ceramics, weavings (rugs), textiles (chasubles), and stained glass windows. So the exhibition pieces not only stated when he created the work but also when the piece was executed and in what medium - many of course cannot be displayed in a gallery as they are architectural.

It left Rob greatly inspired to go home and start on cut-outs as a decorative theme for his house.

Posted on August 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM

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Sunday July 13, 2014

Hampton Court


Following the lovely day at Chelsea, Jenny and I decided to also go to Hampton Court, where we had a great day despite the peculiar weather which produced terrible downpours of rain, and intervals of scorching sun.

The picture is of the NSPCC garden which cleverly showed planting schemes from 3 eras since the charity started. What I noted was that the earliest garden is the type that I favour - and what I have chosen for the front borders in our house (lavender, lambs ears, lady's mantle etc) - whereas Jenny favours the more modern scheme.
The middle era garden was from the 1970s with a riot of bright planting (French marigolds and salvias) - and, true to form, looked just like the garden Rob and I created in Chichester.

Posted on July 13, 2014 at 8:09 PM

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Saturday June 28, 2014

Woolfest 2014


Back at Woolfest again this year - as ever, delighting in the rare breeds parade.
I saw a sheep that was new to me - the Grey-faced Dartmoor; not so clear in this photo but with all her fine ringlets, she reminded me of one of those regency ladies from a Georgette Heyer novel.


On Thursday evening when I arrived, I joined Carol and Pete (the Spindlers2) plus Margaret for a meal at the Bitter End again - to which I was able to walk this time. As last year, a very enjoyable time with a drink or two as I did not have to drive.

I stayed in a new hotel (The Manor House) which is right in the centre of Cockermouth, hence it very easy to walk out into the town to eat or shop. On Friday evening, though, I chose to eat in the hotel, (delicious - lamb shanks) - in fact the hotel really did offer a "warm welcome" as advertised, and I was very lucky to have stumbled across an available room there at such short notice.


The weather was very pleasant, and I was easily able to walk to the venue - I did debate about this as I would not have the car if I bought anything substantial, but decided walking was too tempting to miss. I went to several demonstrations but was anxious to catch Rosemary Stow, a rag-rug maker, and Bapple and Jojo who were providing a demonstration of "Standing wool ('Quillie') rug making" - a technique new to me. It's a simple enough concept but like all things there is skill and knowledge required to achieve workable results.




I also made a new friend, Lin, who was one of the vendors - Weaver's Bazaar - their stall was constantly mobbed as they seemed to provide continuous demos of tapestry weaving. They are located in East Grinstead so I hope to continue the acquaintance once we return home. [Not that I'm a weaver but I live in hope... I am very keen on what I now know to call Lateral Looms - a Guild member brought one in some years ago and I was very smitten with it - this is the first time I have seen one for sale commercially - I may try and construct one for myself... one day when I am at a loose end.]


Here are my purchases after day 1:

Some merino and silk fibre to spin and to knit Deborah a version of Stellaria (not only my favourite plant but also favourite pattern it seems). >>Here<< complete...


Some lovely fibre ("My Precious") from Spindlers2, which attracted me as it looked so wonderful when knitted up - I plan to send to Alison.


Some perfect vintage wool to edge my Martin Storey Mystery blanket in mustard. Looks like it came from my attic - but did not.


On Saturday morning I bought some Herdwick lamb to take home for us to eat, and, as I bought a 2 day ticket, I popped back to the Mitchell's venue again, with the car this time, and bought a few bags of bargain fluff on Saturday morning before heading out home.

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 3:58 PM

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Friday May 23, 2014



I was lucky enough to be able to accompany Jennie to the Chelsea Flower Show. There was so much to see it's hard to choose pictures to show from all that I took - and also it is hard to take good pictures of the gardens unless you are a professional photographer.
I saw a lot of the gardens on TV before we went, and was very interested in the Birmingham City Council Parks entry, which focussed on a WWI memorial garden including a highly stylised representation of a (rather floral) trench - but I loved the fountains made from giant whistles, and this old bicycle (the like of which I hope to recreate in my own garden as a rather smaller project).


The Beatrix Potter garden was delightful and deservedly got an award - unfortunately they decided to go with slightly over-sized plastic versions of Peter Rabbit among the vegetation - a hit with the kids but not with me. I loved the more restrained reference to Peter with his little blue jacket as a scarecrow among the climbing beans.


Alan Titchmarsh produced a very clever garden, but it was more representational than one that you would like to just teleport to your own back yard. I did love the garden designed by Patrick Collins as a celebration of St George's Hospital's Neonatal Unit. Not too sure about the representational aspects of the journey of life but it was a lovely garden.


There were a huge number of retail outlets - I bought George a garden thermometer. We also ran across these wonderful sculptures of giant frogs (not obvious in the picture but larger than human sized...).


Last time I went to Chelsea was in the 1970s, and I don't remember it that well except some vague idea it was very crowded. This time it did not feel so very crowded - and I wonder if that's because we are generally more used to large events being impossibly seething with people these days.
So all in all a very pleasant day.

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 4:01 PM

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Thursday March 13, 2014



As an experiment to see how I felt, I spent my day off at the Knitting and Stitching Show. I thought if I went to a different venue without Sheila then it might not be so bad. On that score, I can't say it worked out too well. However, I knitted my sock on the train, and saw some arty quilts. I'm not keen on picture quilts but there seemed to be a seaside theme which redeemed them in my eyes.


I also spotted one of those delightful relics of former railway splendour at Clapham Junction - a part that they have failed to mess up with modernisation. To be fair I think it was in the process of renovation rather than demolition and I am not sure how old it is - but wonderful in its shabby state.


Posted on March 13, 2014 at 1:08 PM

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Thursday November 7, 2013

ATP tennis


We were lucky enough to see Federer again this year at the O2. We had excellent seats as the photo demonstrates.

While Helen was down south we went shopping in Guildford. In Pandora I bought the yarn to make the Nepal Wrap in the specified Rowan Fine Tweed colours - designer's choices better than my own I thought. However, I am now slightly regretting it as they seem to give a sludgy brown effect overall - not my colours at all. The photo in the magazine makes them look more like muted red, white, blue.


Posted on November 7, 2013 at 11:25 AM

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Saturday October 26, 2013

Lewes WSD Open Day


It's open season at the Guilds. Fresh from the success of our own open day, Norma organised a little trip to Lewes to see "Made By Hand" - the biennial exhibition of the East Sussex Guild. They are a very active and larger Guild and their exhibitions are always packed with wonderful examples of their work.


We wandered around for most of the day, seeing not only their fabulous work, but also demonstrations (with opportunities for hands-on as above), and items for sale. Several of the members bought sets of weaving sticks, which work a little like peg looms (but more portable). However, spurred on by seeing the demonstrations, I finally bought a peg loom from the P&M Woolcraft stand. I stuck with a 24 inch size as I thought it was more practical for me - however I see he makes them up to 59 inches in width, which could certainly make a decent sized rug. Needless to say I have not tried it yet but I am hoping to use up some of the vast amount of poorer quality fleece that I have in making a couple of rugs or cushions; if I actually get round to doing this then it will have been well worth it...!


Refreshments were available in the venue, and I was really quite taken with the delightful table decorations - beautiful little works of art, all hand made in fibre.


Posted on October 26, 2013 at 10:38 AM

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Saturday October 12, 2013

Tadworth Craft Fair


Once again the local crafters impressed me hugely with the quality of their work for sale. I finally succumbed and bought these little beauties - pictured above masquerading as garden gnomes - and although gnomes seem to be fashionable again I think these are somewhat more interesting (though I am probably missing the point of exactly why gnomes are fashionable at the moment). However even if this sort of thing is not to your taste, you can see the quality of the artist behind them - and if you would like contact details then email me using the side buttons. [She also makes commemorative plates and objects on commission].

In addition I bought what were intended as garden dibbers from the wood turner - far too beautiful for that purpose though I intend to give one to George for Christmas. The second one I am keeping for myself to use as a nostepinne. I explained what the latter are to the vendor and suggested that he advertise his product with potential for both purposes. Even though I doubt he will have a queue a mile long for nostepinne, it does broaden the market by about a millimetre.


Posted on October 12, 2013 at 4:44 PM

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Tuesday September 24, 2013

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life


To celebrate Rob's birthday I took the day off and we went to the Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain. There is some good restoration going on there at the moment which led to our choosing to have a quick snack at the nearby Morpeth Arms before starting our tour.

The exhibition illustrates his painting "ordinary people" and a lot of industrial scenes from the period. They also chose to exhibit a few works by other painters to illustrate influences and comparisons of the same era. The one thing I noticed was that his earlier work seemed to show much more detailed depictions of the people in the busy crowded scenes, which morphed into the classic stick men as time went on - and yet weirdly the liveliness of the scenes seemed increased with the diminishing detail of the people. In addition as well as the bustling scenes I associate with Lowry, there were many pictures devoid of people, showing desolate and abandoned landscapes, a little reminiscent of WWI scenes of devastation. Take a virtual tour here.

My favourite was a less industrial beach scene, of which I purchased a reproduction as part of a calendar for 2014.


In the evening we had the birthday meal (conventional steaks) at the Arch Duke - here's Rob smugly showing off his pudding. (Also note my pudding in the foreground!).


Rob is now officially of retirement age so I mocked up this possibly pretentious little artwork of my own, representing pipe and slippers. However it is meant to be ironic - at a number of levels of course - not the least of which is that this really is a tiny 3 inch (working) pipe captured in a box frame.


On our way over Vauxhall Bridge in the morning we noticed a passing "Duck" tour and waited to snap them as they entered the water on the other side of the river. It reminded me of the tour I did in Seattle.
We were lucky to see this as a couple of days after they had an accident during a tour (no real injuries sustained thank goodness) and had to suspend the service for a time.

Posted on September 24, 2013 at 8:18 AM

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Thursday September 12, 2013

A Curious Incident


Easily as good as everyone said it was despite being several cast changes down the line. They told the story, much as the book, from Christopher's point of view, and he was just as appealing in the flesh as he was on the page. It did occur to me later though that there were some unavoidable emotional differences that a stage play had to deal with. In the book, everything from Christopher's viewpoint is very much detached - as if you are seeing things through an emotional barrier. Even though you "know" what's going on in a way that Christopher does not, you are protected from the emotions to some degree. Seeing the other people in Christopher's world in the flesh, however, means you have to deal with them as characters in their own right, and it I think it must have been hard to make them very sympathetic; at the same time you see how very difficult it must have been for them to deal with Christopher because you can see him through their eyes too. Even the "incident" of the dog is at the very least unpleasant - and you have to come to terms with its truly graphic reality in the opening scene.

There were many fun moments, including an amusing idea where certain seats were designated "prime number seats". Not entirely sure how they counted the seats - certainly not using the seat number in any way - anyhow, I was in one of these and I duly played the game, added up the letters of my name using the code as described and found it was indeed a prime number (199) so got my prize.


Posted on September 12, 2013 at 11:59 PM

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Sunday August 18, 2013



Today I went to see Sara (in her new house), little Florence, Rich, and her parents. Actually, I did not spend too much time socialising as we went out walking "downtown" (and it's a lovely town - Rob and I considered moving there when we left Chichester). We visited the allotments, where her Father has two plots (he gave me tips on growing sweet peas - I have managed a single bloom so far - planted them too late or course. See below.)


Anyway - despite wonderful weather and a lovely setting - I took not a single photo - hence the inclusion of my humble bloom above.
However, I did manage to come away with a simply wonderfully generous gift - so its photo graces the head of this page. Beautiful laceweight Posh Yarn - spent rest of day looking for that special project for it.

[This was my first major outing in my "new" mini - it's lovely - and as a source of entertainment it never ceases. Firstly, as it's a company car, they scared me by informing me that it has a Telematics system installed - to check my driving; turns out that this was not true after all - I am relieved to say. After that, the car scared me by cutting the engine while I was waiting at traffic, and appearing to leave the rear doors unlocked despite central locking. All working as designed it seems - an energy saving concept and a proximity key - I really must read the manual! The latter gave us hours if fun while George kept saying "no - it is locked" and then I kept opening it - not realising it was due to my having the key in my hand at the time.]

Posted on August 18, 2013 at 7:50 PM

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Saturday July 27, 2013

Model Engineers 2013


For commemorative reasons (how sad and clumsy that sounds) we went to the Fareham Model Engineers open day at "Railway Field". This is a picture of some family members, enjoying a ride on a model train - as you do.


As well as the trains, there is an exhibition of engineering scale models and some stalls selling bric a brac. I was delighted with this find - a little Rosebud doll - not the highest quality or value but in lovely condition.


Posted on July 27, 2013 at 3:19 PM

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Thursday July 11, 2013

Paul Weller at Kew


We were lucky enough to get tickets for this evening at Kew the Music.


A very civilised evening with our picnic and camping chairs....


Posted on July 11, 2013 at 11:59 AM

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Saturday June 29, 2013

Shugborough Estate


Despite buying a two-day ticket for Woolfest (they deserve it - it's not an expensive event) I did not feel the need to return today; I was ready to go at 9 and would have had to wait an hour for it to open. So I headed straight off home.
As usual, I looked for a National Trust property to look at on the way back and hit on Shugborough - the (former) family seat of the Earls of Lichfield.

There was one miscalculation in that they were hosting a food festival - so it was very busy getting on to the property - but once in I had a lovely time (though I did not have time to visit the festival).

As well as the rest of the house which has been open to the public ever since it was donated to the NT in 1960, they have recently opened Patrick Lichfield's private apartments, as he died in 2005, and they were interesting - but I did not feel very at ease - for me he is almost a peer (no pun intended), dying at only 66 years of age - the swinging 60s are still quite tangible and it seemed like an invasion of privacy, poking around his bedroom. (Emotions that I do not feel looking at the apartments of long-dead Kings.).
I did enjoy his study though - it was more like I had been invited in and was sufficiently "lived in" and comfortable that it seemed that he might join me at any moment. [In fact maybe that was the issue with the bedrooms and so on - it seemed like he might join me at any moment and ask me what the devil I was doing there - thus wholly inappropriate!]

The gardens were great too - due to the way it was gifted to the NT and then leased to Staffordshire County Council, it has remained a working estate (again I passed on some of the additional attractions of the farm/rare breeds and so on due to time as well as because they were all additional charges beyond my NT membership - but it's clear you could spend a very varied day out here).

Posted on June 29, 2013 at 3:15 PM

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Friday June 28, 2013

Woolfest 2013


Back at Woolfest again this year for an indulgent time all to myself. The weather was not as appalling as last year, but it did rain once again.... My first two visits must have been a fluke.

My first act was to check out my pennant - and here it is (centre of photo below) - still in place. My second act was to check out Spindlers2 and buy .... just perhaps a couple of things from them .... ahem...


Other than that I did not come away weighted down with purchases in general. A couple of small gifts and a membership of the rare breeds trust in hand - plus a small bag of alpaca from the fleece sale.
I bought some cashmere and silk fibre from Knitwitches - their yarns are wonderful - "seriously gorgeous" in fact. There was a bit of a distraction on their stand while I was there as Eirwen had just discovered that she had lost one of her sample shawls (presumably to a despicable thief - need I say more) - words fail me really...
No specific pattern for it yet except I know I want to make a shawl - actually I wanted to make a navy shoulder shawl as I seem to be short of one such on this trip - however I find the colourway I have purchased, called "Nightshade" (I was thinking "night"), is more purple (they were thinking "plant").

In the evening, I joined Carol and Pete (the Spindlers2) plus friends for a meal at the Bitter End in Cockermouth - a really good end to the day in nice relaxing company.

And after that.... it was back to the dear old Derwent Bank where I managed to get a room again this year. There have been a few changes since I was last here - probably on balance to the good - certainly more commercial. A little cafe has opened which is a nice addition, meaning you can get food throughout the day - plus you can book your evening meal viably before 6 rather than the preceding day - which was tricky for late arrivals. They threatened me with an Internet connection - but it didn't quite work out for me on the day (!) - and then just as I was wondering how to spend my first quiet evening, (yesterday), I did a double take when I noticed that my room had a television - so I was able to watch Wimbledon - perfect.


Posted on June 28, 2013 at 1:12 PM

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Wednesday May 15, 2013



This is Alan Bennett's new play about.... what .... I am wondering.
That may sound like a bad start - but it was a great play, with so much in it that I find it hard to distil it down to a single grand point. Indeed, Robert certainly had an interpretation, centring on politics of the 1980s, and thus obviously pit closures. Myself, I think it's easy to see it as a generic criticism of the National Trust organization - but I can't think it's that, or even that Bennett dislikes it with such a passion that he was driven to write an entire play about it. I think more that it's a about a sense of loss of the past - what was every day life becomes no longer ordinary and thus no longer to be taken for granted. And though it's not so much that you should not try to preserve it, but that you cannot really preserve it, because it is no longer ordinary. As with relativity - you observe it closely, and it changes - becomes a "Pretend England"

This short film People: A Pretend England is well worth the 8 minutes - and Bennett himself describes his feelings about the play.

This image below makes the play look rather manic - which it is not - but Rob loved Linda Bassett's slippers, so I am including it for that...


Posted on May 15, 2013 at 11:24 PM


Very interesting. I recently read James Lees Milne's autobiography in which he was involved with the early days of the National Trust during and after WWII. Although I have no sympathy for the aristocracy the burden of maintaining these great houses was intolerable: high taxes, often no heirs, high maintenance bills. It was a fascinating read!

Posted by: Alison on May 20, 2013 11:18 PM

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Sunday May 12, 2013

MayDaysArtsTrail 2013


We spent the day on Hayling Island - we had a great lunch at the Olive Leaf pub and restaurant, and made a brief foray out on to the beach - but it was a bit too bracing to stay long - or even "at all"!

The main reason we were there was to see Lou's open house. She had a lot of her "students" work on show this year - including a memorial room dedicated to Sheila's work - from which you can gather that Sheila is no longer with us. Since I still find it rather hard to believe, let alone accept, I can't really say much more than to let her work speak for itself.





Posted on May 12, 2013 at 5:53 PM

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Sunday April 14, 2013



This is vicarious travel.
George went to Dallas (conference).
He went sight-seeing, and took this photo, texting me as he stood there.


Posted on April 14, 2013 at 11:54 AM

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Wednesday April 3, 2013

Big Friendly Giants



Today we went on a little tour in the car. Very 1960s. Very "My Mother".

The planned invasion of the lignes tres haute tension with pylons stomping along the edge of our property (like the community waste dump before it) is now complete. So to celebrate (obviously) our tour was based around following the lines, which actually - if you had no sat nav - do provide an excellent set of landmarks for finding your way home.


Above we have the lines stretching forth into the distance - sometimes following the road, and sometime not - while we zig-zag back and forth under them - never quite losing sight. Below we have come to the end of the tour, reaching our own road, and the closest pylon to it.


The obligatory anarchistic graffiti (someone has to do it) says "LA THT NE PASSERA PAS!" - but I'm afraid it did, (and it's female.....?).
Our house is across the fields to the right so we have wonderful views of this pylon - framed by the bedroom window - and the one in the distance behind it - framed by the bakehouse French windows at the back (and from the planned conservatory).
You can see the bedroom view of the pylon in the snow picture - along with a buzzard, out hunting early, who was presumably as mystified by the weather as we were.


I can quite candidly say that I definitely wish the pylon thing had not happened, and there really are no compensating factors* - except perhaps for the Spanish (recipients) and EDF (profiteers). However, there is some element of these constructions that is quite majestic, and rather jolly - in some cases, the insulator "arms" are set at different angles which give them a sense of movement and a definite jaunty air.
But.... I am not living here permanently or bringing up small children to be concerned about purported negative effects of "waves" - but even if I were I don't think I would be feeling the need to construct bacofoil hats.

[* at least with the land fill there is some vague suggestion that it is planned for a finite time and then will be filled back in.... I am fully expecting a wind farm project to be next on the list of environmental tragedies for this property]

Posted on April 3, 2013 at 9:07 AM

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Thursday January 24, 2013

A Bigger Splash


The critics seem to have been quite ... critical... of this exhibition, and if I say I found it quite interesting, it sounds like damning with faint praise - but (you'll have to take my word for it) I'm not.

The thing for me is that it was all about people working at the extremes or boundaries of art during my own lifetime. Even if I had been intellectually capable of it, or interested enough, I don't think it was very easy to judge what they were doing - for artistic merit or anything else for that matter - at the time they were doing it.
So how interesting for me to look at it again now.
A lot of the performance art of the 1970s was a bit "rude" so you have trouble either getting away from that and saying "I am grown up enough not to be shocked by this rude stuff and is it art nonetheless?" or alternatively regarding the "rudeness" as part of the point of it; a reaction against convention and shock value as an artistic statement or wittiness in itself. And if it is the latter - then none of it's very shocking any more*.
I have no answer to this - I still don't know if I am looking at Yves Klein's living brushes (nude models rolling around in paint) with the narrow view of a sheltered middle class 12 year old or with the hindsight of a sophisticated woman in her 50s - but....
it was all dead interesting.

* I recently watch "I Cladius" from 1976 which included a scene of naked (presumably slave) women dancing for Augustus, which was like the naked dancing in "Hair" (1968), with everyone pretending that it was all "natural" and we were all in touch with our bodies, but in fact it looked just the opposite. These days incidental nudity on TV is simply that: incidental.

The exhibition was really about performance art "looking at the relationship between performance and painting" - so the eponymous artwork (1967) was exhibited with a short clip of the almost-but-not-really documentary film about Hockney by Jack Hazen from 1971 - the film seems to have shaped the reality rather than the other way around.
It included some of Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenburg's film of Jackson Pollock painting - although as I understand it, he did not really like being filmed at work. He found it was limiting in that he was performing for the camera rather than focussing on the art. And it is interesting that the exhibition seems to demonstrate this - the art seems to live either in the performance or in the artwork thus produced - not in both equally.

I think it's fair to say that - apart from Yayoi Kusama and her dots - I had not heard of any of the other artists before, despite their obvious fame among the cognoscenti. And to be fair she only registered with me as, in her 80s now, she came over for her exhibition at the Tate last year - and again - how interesting to see film of her in the 1960s, at her Body Festivals, painting dots on naked people...

Other items in the same vein included: Niki de Saint Phalle - filmed and photographed firing (a gun) at balls of paint captured in plaster casts, that explode on the canvas ("shooting pictures"... get it?) - a lovely idea and great performance art if you were there, but the actual artwork thus produced... you can't help feeling could have been achieved better by other methods. I know, I know....;

Günter Brus with a film of his walking around in Vienna painted white, with a black line down the centre of his body (unusually it seems wearing clothes), and then his inevitable arrest by the local police. (It was Austria, and it was 1965);

And various artists demonstrating the art of make-up - either stage like make-up creating a look: a series of photos showing gradual ageing (Urs Luthi), and aseries of female sterotypes (Cindy Sherman), or as a performance in the actual application of the make-up (Lynn Hershman). Fascinatingly not to say "weirdly", the latter created the alternative self, named Roberta Breitmore, with a "performance" lasting from 1974 to 1978, which she categorised a "time-based sculptural work" - a description I like.

YvesKlein.jpg YayoiKusama.jpg GunterBrus.jpg

The reason we chose to go to the Tate Modern was to fully explore the pleasures of Robert's membership (plus guest!) and as a preliminary outing for my imminent birthday. We continued our tour by dropping in at the British Museum for tea, and then went on to see One Man, Two Guvnors as I felt Rob had missed out; it is still excellent of course, but the cast has changed a few times and you're still left wishing you'd seen the original.

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM

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Sunday November 25, 2012

Lunch at Dragon's Green


We went for our annual family outing with David at "the usual venue" - lovely food and a jolly time. [Unfortunately George couldn't make it this year as he has a cold that just won't go away, and didn't want to infect anyone else.]

Posted on November 25, 2012 at 10:35 AM

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Saturday November 24, 2012

55 Christmas Balls (well, four of them anyway)


I made some Christmas decorations from the well-known Arne and Carlos book. I planned to use some oddments of red and white Guernsey wool, but it proved to be much too thick. I had in mind something about the size of a golf ball, but my first attempts produced something more like a baby hat. So - undaunted - I unplied the yarn on the spinning wheel and replied to a 3 ply and a 2 ply. Hence the balls' rather homespun look as opposed to the crisp examples in the book! (I have to say I like the homespun look - which is lucky).

I started the balls a long time ago and was finally incented to complete them so we could use them as a basis for a Christmas activity at the Guild's last meeting of the year. Here we all are, knitting away:


Several people brought the last of the sock-blank socks for us to admire:


In the evening I went to a Jo Brand charity evening at the Rose. She is very funny and we had a great time. I took some photos, but due to the low lighting (I don't ever use flash) the quality is not good enough to show.

Posted on November 24, 2012 at 10:33 AM

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Thursday November 8, 2012

ATP Tennis at the O2


Just a little photo to prove I was here. The tennis was exciting enough to overcome any signs of jetlag, though our man did not do so well.
I came equipped with my chosen O2 knitting supply - another Hitchhiker scarf, in sparkly purple yarn that Helen chose for herself while we were at Woolfest. Ultimately it became this:


Posted on November 8, 2012 at 10:28 AM

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Saturday November 3, 2012

Santa Cruz


The holiday would not be complete without a visit to Santa Cruz.
We had the usual lovely fish and chips on the Pier at Stagnaro Bros., and Fin tried a bit of fishing; it was lovely in the autumnal sunshine - but maybe a bit too windy to stand much of a chance catching any fish.


Posted on November 3, 2012 at 10:26 AM

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Friday October 12, 2012

Alexandra Palace 2012

The main entrance exhibit at the Knitting and Stitching Show this year was dedicated to the "unfinishable" projects. Everyone has them but the underlying concept here was an interesting one: some are just in hibernation - but there are some projects that will be kept in their unfinished form with the full knowledge or even plan that they will never be finished.

The tent exterior was alive with colourful collage panels of unfinished samples.

Whilst the interior had panels in shades of white as if the colour had all bled away, creating a contemplative dream-like quality.

There was a tiny round seat in the centre - where you could sit and resolve to finish all such projects.
[Note to self: Foolish Virgins].

Once in the the show itself, there was many other wonderful and inspriting projects as usual. The knitted village was delightful - I have snapped only part of it, but I love this depiction of the shop as it was just as in the village where I was born, where the greengrocer grew many of the vegetables himself in a very orderly garden out the back.

The artistic display Jabberwocky by Ann Small and Sue Walton was absolutely lovely.

And the display in the concourse was simply beautiful. The North East Embroiderers’ Guild created more than 80 pieces of work on the theme Mining a Golden Seam to show the mining heritage of the region and its geology and resources. I was particularly taken with one major canvas and yet am ashamed to say I had to have it explained to me by a fellow visitor alongside me; ashamed because I am such an ignorant Southerner when it comes to mining, where to someone from the region this is simply commonplace.

Posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:02 PM

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Thursday October 4, 2012



A fantastic musical - as promised. I would strongly recommend it at any level for both joy in a fun musical, and amazingly tight staging. The players, while remaining convincing and natural, were able to portray the wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations for the book with costuming and body language; they made almost mobile tableaus (I know - a contradiction - yet in a way quite true to the original drawings which are static on the page and at the same time so full of movement).

Do get tickets if you can.

Posted on October 4, 2012 at 11:24 PM

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Thursday September 20, 2012

The Mystery of Charles Dickens


We were unexpectedly offered preview tickets for this one-man show. Simon Callow was his own lovable self, and produced a wonderful evenings entertainment. He is now adept at portraying Dickens through his characters, having recreated a version of the author's famous lecture tours at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008.
This is a different take on the subject seeking to illustrate Dickens' life through his work, where Dickens used his own boyhood experiences bringing them vividly to life in his writing. Peter Ackroyd is responsible for the script, and who could be better suited to draw out such a scholarly comparison in such a tangible and entertaining form.

All this was much appreciated by the audience - standing ovations, and cheers for "more" all round. A wonderful evening from one of our favourite actors.

The Mystery of Charles Dickens runs for a limited season at the Playhouse Theatre until November.

Also look out for Callow's A Christmas Carol at the Arts Theatre from 29th November until 6th January 2013.

Posted on September 20, 2012 at 1:17 PM

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Tuesday September 18, 2012

A Chorus of Disapproval


For old time's sake, I got some more tickets for another Ayckbourn revival - this time one that neither Rob nor I know well, though I did see some of the film version with Jeremy Irons.

It was quite fun - adapted for the period in which it was written I think (1984). However, somehow it missed out a little** - not sure what. Rob said that it can be hard to get Ayckbourn right, and the play has only just opened so it may improve. Certainly Rob Bryden is excellent as usual, but the play has two leads - Bryden is the "character" acting lead, "Dafydd Ap Llewellyn", and to his credit plays him perfectly understated. [Scenes of the technical rehearsal with the lighting had Rob clutching his sides with laughter].
Nigel Harman is "Guy" but somehow failed to bring that little extra something to the role, (although having said that - Guy reminds me of an Evelyn Waugh hero in that he is an innocent and passive victim of circumstance). Overall the cast is stuffed with excellent actors and directed by Trevor Nunn, so it ought to be good. I await a further report from Tony who has tickets for October.

A Chorus of Disapproval runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre until next January.

** I note the Guardian review from Michael Billington who seems to agree with me, (I didn't read it first - honest - but he expresses it better than I do, being a professional and all that...).

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 12:23 PM

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Friday August 24, 2012

Spinning with the Boys


Ah - it's you again. Any news?

Posted on August 24, 2012 at 6:49 AM

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Thursday August 16, 2012

One Man Two Guvnors


Well it was just as hilarious as we had been led to believe.


We snatched a picnic meal in Trafalgar Square before the show. I saw the latest "plinth" offering for the first time (though it has been installed there since February). It's called Powerless Structures and is a 4.1m high bronze sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse. I really like it. The media view is "you either love it or hate it" - but what's not to like?
The design by two Scandinavian artists is intended to be provocative and playful, representing the idea of "daring to be fearless". As well as that, it's an obvious play on the usual formal statue theme of generals on horseback - the plinth itself was intended to host a bronze equestrian statue of William IV by Sir Charles Barry, which was never installed. Now the plinth is home to temporary art installations - this one will be there for 18 months.

[While in Trafalgar Square, I noticed we now have "Heritage Police" - an interesting concept - their main role being to continually say to the visitors "get off the Heritage" ("please").]

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM

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Sunday July 29, 2012

Bourne Quilters

This weekend saw Sheila frantically busy with the Bourne Quilters biennial exhibition. It was a fabulous event with a huge variety of wonderful entries - many of them were themed projects and yet each individual entry was entirely original and so utterly different from one another. I took a huge number of pictures but am limiting myself to those that caught my eye as inspirations to make something.


This Mackintosh inspired panel is very appealing. It captures the design, but is at the same time made very simply, by choosing the right fabric, and using applied ribbon. I particularly like the use of actual quilting on the white background; again, it looks deceptively simple - a pattern of straight lines - but I think in practice, keeping those lines dead straight shows the skill of the quilter - anything slightly off would show up very badly as this is the only decoration on a plain fabric


I always associate quilting with Christmas somehow, so the "Christmas Room" had great appeal. This place setting is quite delightful, and yet created from simple (yet precise!) shapes using lovely fabrics.


The fashion for random bunting continues. I like this, as you can easily use up odd triangles of suitable festive fabric and the lettering is a gold fabric that is fused (not sewn). In this case "Happy Christmas" but applicable for any occasion.


Posted on July 29, 2012 at 6:11 PM

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Sunday July 22, 2012

Rare Breeds at Singleton


It was a lovely summer's day for the rare breeds show at the Singleton Open Air Museum, and we had a great day - not only at the show, but also looking around the museum itself.

We visited the Weavers Spinners and Dyers exhibition, which - not being totally familiar with the site - we found quite hard to locate. But it was pretty impressive.


I loved these rugs - one of them made by one of our members. Makes me want to weave.


The lovely woven pattern is shown in the details below.


This delighted me - it's a dyed panel illustrating the natural dye colours with embroideries of the plants.


The down side of its being quite such a lovely day was that the traffic getting into the site was terrible (over an hour just getting in) which seems pretty inexcusable - it is hard to see why it takes any extra time at all to simply drive in and stop. We were also a bit unimpressed with the food we bought (to eat there). It was a natural farmed hog roast, but the meat served in the bun was basically down to the chewy bits and not enough of it; I am not sure about the value for money aspect (it wasn't that expensive) but really I was not impressed to queue (again) for 20 minutes and be presented with a bread roll full of bread stuffing with a bit of added gristle. I am not averse to chewy bits, but I would rather pay more for something with a reasonable amount of edible meat. I am taking the trouble to moan here as it's not the only experience I have had like this, so maybe the caterers or pubs planning a hog roast might take note.

Posted on July 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM

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Saturday June 23, 2012



We spent the day in Keswick. I was keen to review the pencil museum but for some reason Helen was less so. We began by parking at the little theatre and getting our tickets for the evening performance of Dry Rot - a revival of the Whitehall farce of 1954.
After that we went for a short walk on footpath opposite the theatre, skirting the incumbent flock of sheep - which served only to ensure I had sopping wet feet throughout day 2 as well. After astute observation (!) it became clear to us that the water was very high and had submerged footpaths (to the right of the photo) and boathouses (to the left). The solitary little figure is Helen.

After pootling about shopping, we returned to the hotel to relax and warm up before heading out to the theatre again. Helen was a bit tight lipped about the play ("dated") - but for myself it pretty well lived up to my every expectation.


Posted on June 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM

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Friday June 22, 2012

Woolfest 2012

There were some delightful exhibits this year including these 3D fabric renditions of well-known paintings; the sunflowers I thought were especially good.

VanGoghL.jpg MunchL.jpg KlimtL.jpg

I bought lots of excellent items (mostly fluff and string so I'm not documenting them in detail here). I met up with Carol and Pete Leonard again, and David Herring who supplied the missing "bits" for my wheel - so tiny I need to keep a firm hand on myself to avoid misplacing them after all that. I gave one of the exhibitors cause to giggle as I was wandering around muttering "I must not lose my washers and spring pin" - which she felt was some kind of euphemism of the same ilk as keeping my hand on my ha'penny...

I notice that Susan Crawford had a nice retro "Jubilee" book of patterns on sale (Coronation Knits) - all from the era of the coronation - charming idea. And Kate Davies ("Needled") had a lovely new pattern for a sheep tea cosy which I acquired on a commission from Alison.

CoronationKnits.jpg SheepCarousel.jpg

We came down to the Lake District yesterday, with Helen satisfying my need to visit TK Max and the outlet centre on the way. The weather had turned grim as we drove south - but I seem to have booked a rather splendid country house hotel, which puts a better complexion on things. We immediately booked into the restaurant for last night and tonight, where we found the food excellent - as was breakfast this morning.

Despite the comfort of hot baths and good food at the end of the day, I have to say, Woolfest was not such a great experience for me this year. Overall, I feel that this is a very personal experience and I am not sure that I expect that the organisers could - or should even - take any notice of my gripes.
In summary I think, I am not enjoying the fact that the event is getting bigger - I saw no need to extend the range of stallholders; the consequence seems to be to have changed the mix to include more straight knitting wools, fabrics, buttons etc - so I am seeing all the same people I usually see at Alexandra Palace. The previous exhibition area is now given over to teas and seating, and the Long Draw Spinners (to name but one exhibitor) had been banished to a small corner stall which is not appropriate to view their demonstrations. I can see the visitor numbers will inevitably increase and I am pleased for the organisers - but it had somehow lost its unique emphasis on the animals and the raw fleece and materials. [In passing the Ring several times and having a quick look in, there seemed to be no rare-breed parade this year - or I certainly missed it if there were - and all I saw was a man reading from a rather dull script to a tiny audience, where the ring had been packed out in the past.].
My other selfish whine is that I was not able to park right outside the front of the building as in past years. Now - I know - not everyone can and the increased visitor numbers and vendors mean they have to use the facilities to better suit people's real needs - it's inevitable. But to lose this privilege in conjunction with the truly awful weather - having to park in a field some distance away for the first time, walk across a swamp, through a stepped cascading river of water down to queue outside the back of the venue in the torrential rain to buy tickets - which along with the programme were drenched before we even made it inside..... an unfortunate combination. I think even their attempts to improve the toilet facilities (I admit there was always a queue) were also thwarted by the weather. And - again purely selfishly - the things they had "improved", I do not see as improvements because basically I had no issue with them in the past.
If you had asked me in advance, I was not at all concerned about the bad weather, thinking that as it is all under cover it was not really a weather-dependent event. However, starting (and continuing) the day with sopping wet feet and carrying a sopping wet kagool around (which made my purchases wet - not good for books and patterns), made a great difference to my pleasure in the day. I know there is a supposed British stiff upper lip and we're all in it together making the best of things despite the weather and so on... but it's just not fun.

Posted on June 22, 2012 at 11:56 PM

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Wednesday June 20, 2012

Glasgow Culture Vultures


Today we are in Glasgow to see an outdoor production of The Tempest in the Botanic Gardens. Here is the excited audience before the play begins; excited with the thrill of worrying whether or not we will all be drenched. [It has been raining solidly in various parts of the country for some days now, although my stay in Slockavullin drove me to don my shorts at one point.] However, despite the much publicised downpour predicted for the evening, it stayed fine throughout, and was a great performance.
Our hotel was marvellously convenient, and I had to take this picture of the room - resplendent with chandelier, and chaise longue (as well as the twin beds) - and you can just see that Helen has just made 2 mugs of tea. It was all charming and not to mention very good value - but don't even think about trying to check in after hours.... you have been warned...


Posted on June 20, 2012 at 11:35 PM

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Tuesday June 19, 2012

Crinan Canal Walk (...and tea...)

I am staying with Helen for a few days and then we are off to Woolfest.


We went for a "wee walk" (hike) along the canal. And - as Helen says - the best thing about a wee walk is the tea room at the other end.


Posted on June 19, 2012 at 9:02 PM

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Thursday April 26, 2012

Helen and her cardi


I finally handed over Helen's belated birthday present when we managed to meet at a trendy cafe in Surbiton....

[...and I also received my birthday presents which were a stunning bracelet and the book of knitted egg cosies - the latter is a bit if a risk as we can now all guess what everyone will be getting next year!]

Posted on April 26, 2012 at 6:13 PM

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Sunday April 15, 2012

Where the spirits ran free...

....Tony's Party.


Jim and Mary provided wonderful cocktails invented just for the occasion:


And the our token gifts were inventive variations on the same theme...


The cake that was almost too good to cut. Almost.


I've got to be where my spirit can run free
     [from Corner of the Sky in the musical Pippin by Stephen Schwartz].

Posted on April 15, 2012 at 2:44 AM

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Friday April 6, 2012

Vide Grenier à Saint Laurent de Cuves

A bit late setting off but we managed to get to a "boot sale" - it was very local and we had a bit of trouble locating it despite the fact that the village is tiny and the sale took over the whole of it, since they had closed all roads in.


Anyway we came away with wonderful treasures! (Each at only 50 centimes). This jug (you can see how lovely it is) will join my interesting cat collection, and below we found a pin badge (St Pois is next to Cuves) to join a secret collection of George's - I particularly like its reference to the Tour de France which passed the area last year and granite, as George is so fond of the Granite Museum.


Sadly I did not take a picture of the loveliest treasure which was an apple fork - a farming implement for picking up apples - a bit like a pitchfork. A real bargain, though probably just for show as we use the amazing Apple Wizard - no orchard should be without one.

Posted on April 6, 2012 at 4:56 PM

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Friday March 23, 2012

Henry VIII and Hampton Court

Some colleagues came over from the US and at the end of the week, we went out to be tourists for the day at Hampton Court (always popular with Americans). Here is Lee, obligingly pretending to be a tourist for me in the Great Hall.


We began our tour with the kitchens which were very interesting given the audio guide narration by the experimental food archaeologists. These ovens - a variation on a modern barbecue - are considered by them to be a more versatile and superior method of cooking than those used today.


You can see Lee listening with rapt attention while warming himself by the spit roasting fireplace (it was chilly out of the sunshine).


From here we progressed to an exhibition of Henry's early days on the throne, and then on to his apartments. This is a view of the frieze in the Great Hall, showing the motifs of the Tudor Rose, the French Fleur-de-Lis, and Henry's Coat of Arms, which incorporated the English lions with the fleurs-de-lis - emphasising the English claim to the French throne. This claim illustrated in the arms from the 1300s was only finally relinquished, and thus dropped from the Coat of Arms, in 1801 during the reign of George III, (some good few centuries after we seriously held any territories in France I think!).


We were actually lucky enough to run into His Majesty, Henry, in the courtyard, where we found him exhorting his (younger) subjects not to forget their weekly archery practice on the village green. There were a lot of period actors around - amusing and educational for the school parties (and us!) - plus opportunities to dress up if you chose to do so.

The weather has been wonderful, and I was so pleased it continued thus - last time my friend Lee was here, I subjected him to a challenging tour of the Thames Embankment in a really bitter wind, and by the time we got to the Millennium Bridge he was begging to find a cafe to get warm.
Despite the glorious sunshine, and an amusing excursion through the maze, ("Christina, what is the point of a maze...?"), I failed to take any photos outside, but was a bit obsessed with the ceilings.
Here is the amazing hammer-beam roof in the Great Hall....


...and here a couple of views of the beautiful gold-leafed ceiling in the Great Watching Chamber (or Guard Room, where people would wait for an audience with the King. The ceiling incorporates the badges and coats of arms of Henry and Jane Seymour (third and favourite wife who died 2 weeks after giving birth to the longed-for male heir).


The intricate ribs and pendants are of oak. In the centres of the compartments are oaken wreaths bound by ribbons, enclosing arms and Tudor badges, including the white Yorkish rose within the Lancastrian red rose, Henry VIII's hawthorn bush, Jane Seymour's phoenix rising from the flames, and her castle with rose bush and phoenix, fleur-de-lis, the arms of France and England quarterly, all in their proper colours and gilt. These ornaments are carried out in a form of gesso, apparently a kind of papier mache, pressed into moulds.


The only thing I felt we missed seeing was the Real Tennis Court, which was closed for the day.

Posted on March 23, 2012 at 6:15 PM

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Sunday March 11, 2012

Ride a Cock Horse

As we prepared to leave the area, we fell to talking about the nursery rhyme. I resolved to check it out. As expected there's a lot of information and misinformation on the web. As I read one explanation after another, I preferred each one to the last, and finally I came upon this summary of the various suggestions, which I think provides a balanced view, and is well worth reading.
One thing that does seem clear is that "Banbury Cross" probably refers to the road intersection rather than a physical cross; the proven dates associated with the rhyme, compared with the various identities mooted for the "lady", demonstrate that, however tempting, some of the explanations really cannot be true. The link with pagan Irish rituals seems tenuous and yet at the same time highly plausible.


Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes

So I'm off home now - and never did get to eat a Banbury Cake. Maybe next time...

Posted on March 11, 2012 at 2:11 PM

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Saturday March 10, 2012

WTHS Oxford and Banbury

A day out in Oxford.

The evening meal was the usual curry at the Sheesh Mahal in Banbury - followed by some further refreshments at a local hostelry... (back to the Reindeer of course!). Sad to say there were even more absences this year; Nicolette is not well, and Robert was planning to be there but his Father was taken ill. Our usual toast, with warmest wishes, to absent friends...

Posted on March 10, 2012 at 11:08 PM

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Friday March 9, 2012

The Reindeer Inn

Time again for the WTHS reunion. This year it was "Oxford" but hotels there were way off our budgets so we are staying in Banbury. Those who arrived today dined at the Reindeer Inn which offered excellent pub food served in fascinating surroundings.

The pub is steeped in history. The Globe Room in which we ate was where Cromwell is said to have planned the Battle of Edgehill, and which was also used as a courtroom to try the Royalists. It still has all the original oak panelling - though it has been on a bit of a journey between now and then.
On top of all that, I cannot emphasise enough how truly wonderful the staff there were. I can thoroughly recommend it - and all at excellent prices.

The pubs seem to have been key in housing both sides in the Civil War and the following quote particularly pleased me with the reference to pub names: The Roundheads (the Parliamentarians) and Cavaliers (the Royalists) - used to billet their troops in alehouses, taverns and inns. As the progress of the war swung in favour of one side and then the other, an alehouse would change its name from say, the King's Head to the Nag's Head and back again.

Posted on March 9, 2012 at 11:16 PM

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Sunday February 26, 2012

Unravel 2012

A few photos from Unravel in Farnham. This year my sister came along, even though this isn't really her sort of event, she enjoyed the artistry of works on display.
I was smitten with this cushion.


Noah's Ark did not win "Best in Show" but it got our vote.


In addition there was a complete farmyard on display in one of the stairwells.


The woolley Art was not limited to the confines of the building. I thought these knitted moles erupting from the grass were very cute, (more so than the real thing I have to say).


And as usual, Well Manor Farm provided the warm-blooded woolley items. I was sorry not to see the Gotlands this year but this one with her little black lamb.... aaaah...


Posted on February 26, 2012 at 12:46 PM

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Sunday January 29, 2012

Eat Me


Karen has taken up cake decoration and made this wonderful gem for me - not only looks fantastic but tastes good too....!


Can't see myself eating him somehow.


Posted on January 29, 2012 at 2:13 PM

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Friday August 26, 2011

Spinning in the Glasshouse


Janet had all the gang round to hers again, (a glutton for punishment as we say).
All is a positive hive of activity, except I notice that my wheel in the foreground has nothing on it....! I seem to spend most of my time chatting to people.

Posted on August 26, 2011 at 11:51 AM

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Thursday August 25, 2011

Sheep may safely graze.


On the way back from a lunch date at Dragons Green, I noticed signs advertising a windmill at Shipley, so I followed to take a look, and have a walk around the village. The windmill was made more famous by having featured in Jonathan Creek, and is no longer open to the public apparently - and I could not even find the adjacent path from which "it can be viewed externally" - this was as close as I got.


Me and the sheep got a little closer.


The lunch date was with my sister and cousin David. She and I were incapable of taking a decent photo with my phone, but I want to record the day so I went for the ones where we were at least smiling.



Posted on August 25, 2011 at 9:49 PM

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Saturday August 20, 2011

Creative Fibres 20th Year

It's our Guild's 20th year and we had a little lunch party to celebrate.


Above: the spread.
Below: the team that made it all happen (not quite so much me, though I seem to have a prominent place in thepicture...)


Posted on August 20, 2011 at 8:53 PM

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Sunday July 3, 2011

Small Holders 2011


Another sunny day at the Smallholders show - all the usual mix of interests for a grand day out. I had to snap the van (one of a number of old vehicles in the parade) - our first family car in my lifetime was a tiny Austin A35 - almost a museum piece even then - beautiful, but not fully appreciated by me at the time!


My other favourite - I would have stayed and watched for longer, but my companion was not quite so interested - and together we considerably elevated the average age of the audience.

Posted on July 3, 2011 at 6:40 PM

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Wednesday June 29, 2011

The Bell - Morris and Clog


This evening we cycled over to the Bell (or the Rat as it also seems to call itself) at Withybed Corner, to see Rob's Morris side in action. In fact, they were guests of a clog side - truth to tell I somewhat prefer clog dancing - so it was quite a interesting departure from the norm.



All the while we were there, the clouds threatened, and everyone was fearful for our getting wet on the way home (not realising that our house is in very easy walking distance from Walton, never mind cycling). However, the light was really eerie and on the way back we saw rainbow - weird in the twilight - which needed a rather better camera to capture properly.


Posted on June 29, 2011 at 6:18 PM

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Saturday June 25, 2011

Woolfest 2011


As usual, the animals were the stars of the show - along with their good-humoured handlers. When we first entered the building, I thought we might have to immediately leave due to Helen's being prone to asthma, but luckily she seemed to recover (we spent minimal time in the "animal" section), and we caught the Rare Breeds Parade without having to rush Helen to hospital. We tried out the new area for tea and coffee, though actually I'm less keen on this - I liked the "sit down" area with music, as it was, in the middle of the venue, with the demonstrations in this area - old stick-in-the-mud that I am - and the dancers: nice touch but basically just in the way.


I managed to avoid buying a fleece - it was not too hard since almost everything was sold, as it was the second day - and I learnt afterwards that they had sold more fleeces in the first 2 hours of the event than the total sold last year. (Indicative of the increasing numbers attending, which again, selfishly, I am not too cheerful about).
Surprisingly (to me) Helen bought herself a picture felting kit, and also surprisingly, I bought some felt figures rather then a kit (!). They were a chicken for my sister, and a Sylvester-style cat for myself. Jenny Barnett was in the middle of making the latter when I purchased it, and I had to wait while she finished it off.


She subsequently made me a second chicken (to my specification as a Croad Langshan), so I had the 2 in time for Christmas gifts.


In the evening, we went out to the Little Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, to see Noises Off by Michael Frayn, of which I had only ever seen the film production in the past. It was pretty funny and well-observed, (although we had to sacrifice a second gourmet outing to the pubs and restaurants near our hotel!).

Posted on June 25, 2011 at 11:56 AM

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Friday June 24, 2011



I'm visiting Helen in Slockavullin (that's a place...).
It's the first time I've been to her place, although she's been there some years now, and this is her wonderful newly fitted kitchen, with Helen herself - mistress of all she surveys.

Helen picked me up in Glasgow (early) and we spent the day there, eating and shopping. I was very keen to take lunch at the famous Willow Tea Rooms, and managed to get a photo of the more formal dining room (not available for lunch).


When I shared Helen's house for a short time in Kingston, we used to put together garden pots for the tiny patio, so on this visit, we did a reprise, though her garden is now much bigger. This pot is worthy of note as it's a departure from our tried and tested colour scheme.


Her garden is on a slope and this is a picture of the summer house at the top of the garden, which is also home to a large family of house martins which Helen was able to watch at close quarters as they progressed and finally fledged.


The weather was not good for my sight-seeing day, but somehow the fantastic scenery and ancient standing stones are well-suited to the grey skies with a touch of rain in the air.


As is often the case with British weather, a day later and we enjoying a final breakfast in the garden, before setting off south to the Lake District. If we look wild and somewhat hysterical in this photo, blame the automatic camera function, which involves my running round to take my position just in time.


... and by evening we were in Borrowdale at our delightful B&B with even more fantastic scenery - this a view from our bedroom window and...


.... a nice cup of tea... what else?


Posted on June 24, 2011 at 9:13 PM

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Thursday May 19, 2011

My big brother


Today I had to say goodbye to my big brother. I thought he would always be there, but ... how foolish is that. He always loved foreign places and travelling, and seems to have spent his life doing just that. I hope and trust that after this last journey he will find himself somewhere just as wonderful and full of excitement.

Posted on May 19, 2011 at 3:50 PM

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Monday May 16, 2011

Isabella and the pot of basil


The story of Isabella, has been told by Boccaccio, Keats, and Hunt, in tale, poem and picture respectively. The narrative poem by John Keats was adapted from the story in Boccaccio's Decameron. It tells of a young woman whose family intend to marry her to "some high noble and his olive trees", but who falls for Lorenzo, one of her brothers' employees. When the brothers learn of this they murder Lorenzo and bury his body, fobbing Isabella off with some implausible yarn about his going away suddenly. However, his ghost informs her of the truth in a dream. She exhumes the body and buries the head in a pot of basil which she tends obsessively, while pining away.

The story was popular with Pre-Raphaelite painters, who illustrated several episodes from it - and also with Croydon College, who produced a short film of the story as part of their Digital Film Production degree course. It was shown at the BFI this afternoon and I took a short break from my office to go along and watch.

Posted on May 16, 2011 at 8:49 PM

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Saturday May 14, 2011

Bicycles made for two.

We got bikes! (one each that is).


I'm afraid they are a matching pair, and despite the fact that the girlie versions of all the matching bikes are in girlie colours, I am still very pleased with mine. I was ably assisted by our local bike shop, (B&L Stevens), who helped explain to me that all my life I have been under a complete misapprehension as to how you should size a bicycle, and then, having convinced me with a test drive, they adjusted the saddle to optimum height. (I blame the National Cycling Proficiency Test circa 1965).
Anyway - moving on - George is purchasing a swish new bike rack for the car - so - have bikes, will travel.

Posted on May 14, 2011 at 3:48 PM

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Saturday April 9, 2011



An outing to Wisley to view the spring flowers, gain allotment inspiration, and tour the hot-house.


All the Wisley subjects are so wonderfully photogenic.



Posted on April 9, 2011 at 5:44 PM

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Friday April 8, 2011

War Horse


Last night we went to see War Horse at the New London theatre. It was as fantastic as everyone says - though it is a childrens book with very adult content, and the audience was full of sobbing little girls (and some big girls as well...).

Prior to the show, at Tony's suggestion, we ate an excellent meal at Sophies Bar and Grill in Covent garden.

Posted on April 8, 2011 at 9:25 AM

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Sunday March 13, 2011

Birthday at the Swan


Notable quote: "I'm sorry we don't do bread pudding any more - customers complained that it was very bready". .....er...hello?

Posted on March 13, 2011 at 5:45 PM

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Saturday March 5, 2011

The Friends - in Chichester


This year it was Chichester, which was sufficiently close for me to make it a day trip. We may have had a few informal pre-dinner drinks (below) - followed by the traditional curry (above).

Paul-Robert-Chris.jpg WTHSWAGs2011.jpg Jane-Chris.jpg

It was a lovely afternoon, so prior to meeting everyone, I took a walk around the walls - which I don't remember doing very much (if at all) when I lived here.


There was great excitement in East Street where there had clearly been a fire - apparently affecting Fat Face and the accommodation above.


I finished off my sight-seeing by visiting the cathedral and the Bishops gardens. I tried to photograph the Chagall window but with limited success. (Hard to get the correct angle and a stable position in which to focus).


Posted on March 5, 2011 at 11:43 PM

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Sunday February 20, 2011

Family Lunch


This time meeting my sister and having an "almost" New Year lunch with my Uncle David (as opposed to my cousin David) at the George and Dragon in Dragons Green.

Posted on February 20, 2011 at 2:17 PM

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Saturday January 29, 2011

The Mousetrap


George organised the most wonderful birthday treat for me as a surprise. We went to see the "Mousetrap" - I was absolutely delighted. The show is older even than I am - 2012 will be its diamond jubilee (and not mine!) - and I have never seen it before. The plot is a sort of amalgamation of Agatha Christie favourite themes including blizzards and locked rooms, so it made it possible to make a stab at who the murderer was, but the implausible coincidences and relationships between the characters made it all the more interesting and charming. I felt like I wanted to dress in costume - not a mouse costume... - but would have looked an idiot so luckily suppressed the urge.

Following the theme: we had "stored" our apple crop (about 4 Bramleys) in the attic - and I found that the mice regarded them as winter fodder. They did not eat them all at once you understand, just came back for another bite from time to time. We don't have "house" mice but pretty little brown wood mice who prefer to live outside except in the coldest weather when they come in - and eat anything they can find. I managed to exclude them from the downstairs area and kitchen by preventing entry (anything in the lobby is fair game for them), but the attic is impossible to make mouse-proof.
I'm afraid I had to "deal" with them. And remove the apples.

Posted on January 29, 2011 at 4:02 PM

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Thursday January 27, 2011

Toby Craftery

A new knitting group has started up on Thursdays in Redhill (at the Toby Carvery). I am keen to join in. However, the meetings are every 2 weeks - and with other commitments I seem to keep missing the dates.
It is great to see other people's projects, which are often things I am interested in but not planning to knit myself. Sort of vicarious knitting...


Posted on January 27, 2011 at 4:03 PM

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Thursday October 28, 2010

Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe

A late birthday outing for Robert to the V&A.


We are both interested in this topic; in the 1980s we were lucky enough to see the Ballet Rambert's Rite of Spring, (reconstructed from dance notations and photos of Nijinsky's original ballet). Delightfully, we found they were also performing the Ghost Dances, accompanied by Incantation themselves - a memorable evening. [About which I can find no reference on the web - it being pre-1992!].
Robert's interest is professional as well, since this was an exhibition not only of photos and memorabilia but theatrical costumes and - probably most excitingly - painted back cloths, (which are surprisingly stunning due to their awesome size as well as history). The centrepiece (apparently) of the exhibition is a cloth for Le Train Bleu by Picasso - with contemporary photos of its being painted with Picasso and others. Not many of these cloths survive due to their vast size, and I would think for many cloths in general, debatable merit - so it is fantastic to see them displayed.
Do look at this blog entry from the V&A with a short video of its being hung by the staff - and this one showing the Firebird cloth being rolled up at the end. In fact I would recommend viewing all these blog entries covering the exhibition period!


I was a little underwhelmed by the costumes, only because they are simply that - theatrical costumes - the sort of thing that Rob's students produce. There were of relatively simple construction and were not at their best on close inspection. I think also the designs were in influenced not only by traditional folk costumes, but also by the paired down lines of (what became) the 1920s fashions, which I do not find so appealing.
However, to see such an historical collection of design drawings, costumes, together with "backstage" photos of the people and designs coming together - simply wonderful.

I was very interested to see the Coco Chanel costume designs (used in the V&A publicity materials) for Le Train Bleu as they included knitted swimwear - fabulous.


I am not certain if photography was permitted or not, but I took this to try and show the colour of the lovely knitted swimsuit. As ever, there was very low lighting throughout the exhibition presumably in order to preserve the fabrics, thus, of course, definitely no flash, so you'll have to regard it as an "art" photo due to the excessive camera shake.


Posted on October 28, 2010 at 11:48 PM


You know - I think I saw that same Ballet Rambert production! To think that we have never discovered that over 25 years of our friendship!

Posted by: Alison on March 25, 2011 3:12 PM

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Saturday October 9, 2010

Knitting and Stitchery Show 2010

The fun day has come round again - this year was a first as we had to go on a Saturday. I think our conclusion was that it was more crowded and there may have been more drivers to the event as the local tube line is closed for repairs - I met one of our Guild members who had not known in advance and she had taken 3 hours to get there... Anyway no such issues for us.
This year the great theme was "renew and recycle". There was a huge display of Mors Bags in the main corridor:


I discovered Mors Bags some time ago and spent a pleasant May Bank Holiday making some out of old curtains - but what I had failed to fully realise was that the fabric was utterly degraded, and my beautiful bags shredded when washed. However, I have not given up on the idea so watch this space... Luckily many other people seem to have found more robust fabrics to recycle.

Unfortunately my camera misbehaved on the day so my photos have flaws - but these are a few of the interesting exhibits we saw. I loved this retro chair, (but I don't want to own it... in case you are thinking of themed Christmas gifts....!).


I was also very impressed with this exhibit by artist Claire Platt - my own photo of this is so bad I have used hers from her site - take a look there for other interesting work.


I had my own flying duck set once - not plaster I'm afraid - having been so ubiquitous (and reviled by teenagers) in my youth, they are now quite rare as plaster is so fragile. My set was the traditional 1930's green but, strangely, made of metal...
However Aran knitted versions!
Now we're talking....

This year we did not buy so very much - Sheila has taken up knitting again and purchased some bright blue yarn from Black Sheep's bargain section - I agonized over some Rowan Damask as I love knitting with it but decided to pass as I have no specific project in mind. For myself I bought some more Knitpicks (Knitpro) interchangeable needle tips - the multicoloured wood type - from Coleshill Accessories; my steel ones only go down to 3½mm and I found they are available in 3 and 3¼mm. I also found that you can get shorter ends (they are 100mm as opposed to the standard 128mm and called "special" tips in case you want to buy any). They are designed to go with shorter length wires (40cm) but I am finding them useful all round. Even with shorter old circulars I often have trouble turning in the tips as they are too long; in fact my general comment on these needles is that the length should change as the needle size increases - I have the "chunky" set in steel and 128mm is too short to handle properly in those sizes. I did think the short wires might be good for socks - but they are still too long - suitable for hats apparently; one thing they will be excellent for is the sleeves and neck on a guernsey (yes, I am still planning to knit another one day!).

I also found this lovely coat pattern (V2884), a reissue of a 1954 design.


I decided to restrain myself and not to buy some lovely red woollen fabric from The Shuttle - but now wish I had! I did buy some fine brown linen (for a doll's dress) and crushed purple velvet (for a a bag inspired by one I saw on sale at Wisley).

My final purchase was a giant ball of Rayon string from Empress Mills. This has mystified everyone ... but I like it...

Finally - an enchanting display of tiny hats:


Posted on October 9, 2010 at 10:53 PM


Those little hats are wonderful. Can't decide which I like more, the little top hat or the birds nest!

Posted by: Cathy in Va on December 3, 2010 1:29 AM

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Friday September 10, 2010

IKnit Weekender

I went to IKnit with Felicity


Herdy was there selling his (her) mugs and we shared a set between us.* Felicity bought an extra ball of pink mohair wool from the Natural Fibre Company to finish her pink cardigan - started at Woolfest. I bought a ball of sock wool.

We had lunch watching a Rowan fashion show introduced by Erika Knight - and I tried on a few of the latest Fair Isle designs with Felicity's reassurance that they did not enhance the benefits that nature has bestowed on me. The afternoon was spent in a class on "Continental Knitting", which I found a lot more interesting than I had hoped - and has made me see moss stitch in a whole new light.** Our tutor was Biggan Ryd Dups - she was excellent.

* George was not amused at the addition of another mug to our cupboard - especially as it was pink so he cannot clearly identify a "his" and "hers" theme.
** Since the course I decided to practice on a sock. I know for fact that so-called continental knitting is the fastest technique and is traditionally used by Fair Isle Knitters who used to produce a sweater in a day for day-trippers to the Island, (I saw a "Look at Life" film at an impressionable age!). I got George to time me and found that although I thought I was knitting pretty fast, it took me 2 minutes to knit rounds using my usual method but a disappointing 2 minutes 50s using the new method. I guess it takes practice...

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 10:54 AM


Oh no, you're joking -- an entire sweater in a day? Was thus just with ordinary Continental or with the tucked-in-a-knitting -belt method? If it's that fast, I may have to look into getting trained in it!

Posted by: Cathy in Va on December 3, 2010 1:27 AM

I think more than one knitter worked on the "sweater in a day", and I think they did use a belt or "whisk".
I'm guessing that these souvenirs were for the well-off, as I think even in the days of my childhood they would have been relatively expensive, and thus demand from the average day-tripper would not have exceeded knitting resources.
Anyway - even with the "training" I have a way to go.....

Posted by: Christina on December 19, 2010 11:39 PM

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Sunday September 5, 2010

Lizzie's Party

Unbelievable but Lizzie has reached 21! This fabulous cake created by her Mother.


Opening that special gift from Granny and Grandpa.


Posted on September 5, 2010 at 6:31 PM

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Sunday August 29, 2010



Having been a member for two years, we finally decided to visit RHS Wisley and see the Sculpture Trail. It was very interesting and some items were quite desirable - but not quite in our price range.


I was very inspired by the vegetable plots on show - especially the "caged" brassicas which protected them from caterpillers. In the end we purchased a tiered set of shelving so that I can make a home for a mass of strawberry offshoots that I brought home from France. These were last years named varieties that I took over there at the end of the season and the fruit is delicious - each has a different flavour - though George and I only got to eat about 3 strawberries from them! I originally chose them as they each cropped at different times but now I have no idea from which plants the babies are derived.
This year I found a tray of pathetically sick looking strawberries for 25p in Homebase - 3 seem to have survived and cropped about 2 strawberries - which were nice but not wonderful. The plants are now doing well so - maybe next year....

Posted on August 29, 2010 at 8:28 PM

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Friday August 27, 2010

Janet's Day

Another year has rolled around and we were all spinning in Janet's Victorian greenhouse again - and feeding the alpacas.This year she offered some of her alpaca fleece for sale, which was much appreciated by all.


I was spinning this lovely batt which I bought from Emma of Lavender Cottage Fibres when I met her at Shabden Park Farm. The batt was rolled up exposing only the wine colour - but this did not do it justice - unfurling it revealed other colours, and it is spinning into a lovely soft yarn.

Posted on August 27, 2010 at 9:10 PM

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Thursday August 26, 2010

Railway Children at Waterloo

Ridiculous I know but I have been looking forward to this all summer. Feeling that I am a child of the railway myself, (though not like the ones in the story), plus the memories of my Father linked with Waterloo station, this was a nostalgic outing not to be missed.


Anyway - it was wonderful - lived up to every expectation. I liked the fact that they staged it rather like Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills (a particular favourite of mine) in that the "children" were the adults they "are now", as it were, playing themselves as children. This opens up possibilities for the play - not the least of which is that you have the skill of adult actors in the roles - and led to a portrayal of the story with all the passion and romance but without the sentimentality.
And - there was a real steam engine and everything! - I cried almost all the way through - I'm crying now.... (Luckily Rob does not embarrass easily).

Charmingly - for the media publicity when the production opened - Bernard Cribbins came along for a photoshoot at Waterloo. (What a professional that man is!). And in this production Marshall Lancaster makes an excellent Mr Perks.


Tickets available through to the New Year. Go on....

Posted on August 26, 2010 at 11:39 PM

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Thursday August 12, 2010


My sister and I met up with our cousin David for lunch in Shoreham-by-Sea. We have always loved Shoreham which was a rather scruffy working working port when we were young. Now it is a little more gentrified but this has not destroyed it - somehow it retains an air of pleasing eccentricity. One of the positive aspects of gentrification is a good choice of restaurants - we ate (fish) at Suter's Yard - and after lunch we went for a walk...


The spit which forms the harbour can be accessed by a footbridge - which we crossed - to see the amazing collection of houseboats along the Adur mud flats - they are made from converted barges, tugs, mine sweepers, motor torpedo boats etc and are weirdly beautiful.


[After all this, I had to just pop in to Shoreham Knitting and Needlecraft - wonderful shop - otherwise known as English Yarns - I used to visit them in person on a regular basis but I find myself down that way less frequently now so I use their excellent online shop.]

Posted on August 12, 2010 at 6:06 PM

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Wednesday July 14, 2010

Sissinghurst and Tudeley

After only about 25 years, my friend Jocelyn came over to see me from Australia - she has been over before but we have always missed each other. It was great to see her again, and we went on a couple of days out.

We visited Sissinghurst - I've always wanted to see the famous garden (now owned by the National Trust) - and it was as lovely as I expected. Unfortunately I have had camera issues for a while now and failed to get any personal photos of Joc or the garden. Anyway - I decided to post this photo of 3 generations of the family (men) take around 1967.


The next 3 generations posed in the same way about 20 odd years later - for fun I imagine - and the two photos were exhibited side by side. This kind of idea always has great appeal for me (as in my crude attempts to copy the original model poses in POM) - so I was hoping to post the same here but am unable to find a copy of the later photo on the web.

As we were (relatively) close - in Kent at any rate - I finally took that detour to Tudeley to see the Chagall windows in All Saints Church. I did not warn Joc of where we were going as I was not sure what to expect - but it was utterly beautiful in its tranquil setting with not another soul about; a very impressive end to the day.


Posted on July 14, 2010 at 8:29 PM

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Saturday June 26, 2010

Back to reality.


No I have not been there all night (note the change into traveling clothes) but could not resist spending the last hour in the garden before being picked up to travel home.
Over breakfast I met up with a fellow Woolfest attendee (no names exchanged?!) whom I had met last year at the hotel - and like me she had gone to some lengths to book it again. Talking to her made me wonder if we had attended the same event as she had seemed to see so many things I had missed; this made me resolve to attend on both days next year - there is plenty of time to spend the morning there on the second day as well as travelling home.

On the way back we dropped in at a small farm which had Shetland sheep - the owner had been unable to get her small flock sheared in time for Woolfest and was taking orders - she also related the sad (but ultimately uplifting) story of rescuing her sheep from the flooding. I think all the farmers around must have such stories.
I also amazed some very old friends in Windemere by dropping in on them at an unsociably early hour for a Saturday morning. I guess we have not met for over 20 years and they were a bit bemused but very welcoming for all that. Andy and Jeff are due to confirm their civil partnership next weekend and as this post is very late (technical issues) I am slipping in this photo of them (taken by Rob) on that memorable day.


Unfortunately I could not stay with them for very long (Adam and Felicity occupied with coffee and cake and a long journey ahead of us).
Throughout the car journey I was knitting "Puzzle" - a chunky cardigan design by Louisa Harding for which I am using Sirdar Peru. Being chauffeur driven on such a long journey has been great for headway on the knitting - and it says a lot for Adam's smooth driving that I was able to do it.

Posted on June 26, 2010 at 10:17 PM

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Friday June 25, 2010

Woolfest 2010

I have had the usual wonderful day. My first visit was to collect my spindles from Spindlers2 (Carol and Pete Leonard).


I spent quite some time there collecting 2 spindles and choosing some fibre; I also eyed up a delightful Turkish spindle which I lusted after for its cute size, but at 11g it was a bit too specialised for me. Afterwards, I moved on to look at the display area and bought some Yak and Silk fibre which I used with my Greensleeves "Fox" spindle during the Spin In in the evening; it is tricky to spin and probably better suited to a supported spindle, so I was pleased with my efforts.

I was immediately drawn to Deb Gillander's display of ganseys - she had lots of interesting books and stories to tell as we gossiped.


Before the browsing started, we had two missions to complete - one was to get to the fleece sale as soon as possible so Felicity could buy some Wensleydale fleece. In fact she bought 3 fleeces including a Ouissant, which was incredibly soft but not a breed we had ever heard of. Later on we were to see one in the rare breeds parade and this explained why the fleece was only about 1Kg in weight! I was under orders not to buy any fleeces at all but finally could not resist a Gotland; I was torn between a young fleece which was very soft and smaller, and an older one which had better colour variation - I went for the latter, but I'm still not sure I made the right decision.
In the afternoon, we attended the demonstration by Sue Blacker of the Natural Fibre Company, which went into assessing wool quality on and off the sheep, the right fleece for the right purpose, and how to sort a fleece. I found it very interesting and was right in there squeezing the fleeces but Felicity was a bit more reserved - raw fleece not being to everyone's taste...!

Our second mission was to pick up tickets and hand in my pennant. I was disappointed as the pennants were not due to be hung until after closing at the end of the day - however I crept in after the show was officially closed, (during the Spin In) and took this photo of my pennant in its display position.


I was also able to sneak a go on a Great Wheel - I have never tried it before and was pleased and surprised that it was not so difficult - I think it's all in the fibre preparation (which was not down to me!).

When I got back to the hotel, I was still enthusiastic to work with my new spindles and fibre, so I started spinning the merino and bamboo fibre using my other Spindlewood Round made from apple wood. It was a wonderful experience to be outside in such beautiful surroundings, spinning in the twilight.


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Photo album created with Web Album Generator

Posted on June 25, 2010 at 10:51 PM


I didn't see as much as this but it looks good & I'm pleased to have been part of it!

Posted by: deb gillanders on September 22, 2010 10:57 PM

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Thursday June 24, 2010

We're off

Today I made the long journey north to Woolfest. I was delighted to stay at the Derwent Bank again - and this year I had an even more wonderful room on the first floor with a prime view of the lake.


I say "I made the journey" but in fact I had a chauffeur in the shape of Felicity's husband Adam - which was wonderful - I (and Felicity) knitted all the way up there. This meant I was able to knit my contribution to the bunting that the Woolclip are co-ordinating as a team effort to decorate the venue from year to year. Here it is lovingly displayed at the window of my room.


I knitted a "right" side but actually the reverse may look even better with the effect of the garter stitch. I am really overly pleased with this effort as it is knitted with the first woolly efforts I spun (and dyed) to knit - Ava's Suffolk sheep making a hat, and a pair of blue socks - and now bunting.


Later on I walked down and sat at the lake's edge and did some more (different) knitting. It is wonderfully peaceful - right in the centre of the picture is a heron, who was quietly fishing as I quietly knitted.


Posted on June 24, 2010 at 8:12 AM


It looks so green and peaceful - I'm not sure I'd have been able to tear myself away to the actual event!

Posted by: Alison on July 11, 2010 5:33 PM

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Sunday June 13, 2010

Shabden Park Farm

Shabden Park Farm Open Day - including tractor rides and sheep shearing - and our group spinning to show kids what happens to the wool after it comes off the sheep.


It's always fun to spend the day in the sunshine spinning - provided you can steel yourself to endure small children with their ice-cream hands on your fleeces - and in one case sneezing and wiping hands on the wool!

There was a farmers market where I discovered that Emma of Lavender Cottage Fibres has a regular stall every month - I bought some lovely hand-dyed fibres from her - she stores them all with lavender so they smell wonderful too.


She also sells her own handspun and I chose the multi-colourway in the basis of seeing the effect in her spun fibre. The red batt is a scrumptious colour, with just a hint of sparkle.
The farm is very local to me and I may well visit the market in the future - for yarn and other produce. George came along for a while and bought some of the edible wares.

Posted on June 13, 2010 at 11:29 PM

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Sunday May 9, 2010


Today was spinning at Cowpie - in Betchworth this year. We had our own area and were demonstrating spinning and braiding etc.



On the adjacent stand was a chap selling walking sticks. Somehow I managed to exclude him from my photos. However I bought one of the sticks for George. ( Not sure he wants or needs one but I have been keen to get him one for some time - they are wonderful works of art made from hazel, with carved antler and horn pommels from Jacobs, Portlands, Buffalo etc).

Posted on May 9, 2010 at 8:50 PM

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Saturday May 1, 2010

The First of May

Hooray, Hooray, the First of May. You can cast your clouts today....
(well what were you expecting to do?!).

So for once I was up bright and early to greet the dawn with the Morris Men on Box Hill. There were 3 sides today - Off Spring Morris, Ragged Rooster, and Ewell St Mary.

What a gang they made.....

I was a bit cold - seemed mild enough to not wear a coat when I got out of the car, but to stay warm you had to be dancing!

It was all rounded off nicely, though, with a warming cup of tea and a cooked breakfast.

They know what's important in life those Morris (Wo)Men.

Posted on May 1, 2010 at 7:27 AM

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Sunday April 25, 2010

Grace is the beauty of form.

I spent yesterday at the V&A taking in both the Quilts exhibition - ancient and modern - and "Grace Kelly: Style Icon", which showed how her wardrobe evolved from that of a stylish actress to royal princess.

In the latter, we were able to see her film costumes, dresses made for her trousseau and wedding, as well as the later French haute couture of the 1960s and '70s. In 1955 Grace Kelly first met Prince Ranier wearing a cotton dress made from a McCalls pattern of the day (albeit not hand-sewn by herself - she had modeled for McCalls spring catalogue for that year) but going forward as Princess she easily embraced the haute couture gowns by her favourite couturiers Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.
I loved the outfits from the 1950s - envisioning myself on all of them (!). The dresses were inspirational and made me want to go home and start sewing immediately! The 1960s fashions were a little less appealing to me, based on simpler straighter lines - though the Mondrian dress is always striking (I think M&S even had recent version of this type of 1960s design).
Of course, they have their own beauty, which she was well able to carry off with her height and slender figure -
GraceHair.jpg - and rather despite the bizarre 1960s rigid hair styles, bolstered by hair-piece additions, (which were a fairly normal feature even in less formal hair dressing at that time).
In the 1970s, the fashions moved favourably for an older Grace (in my opinion) but these are my least favourite - probably because this was the sartorially unsatisfactory era of my youth ("the decade that taste forgot"). The exhibits were more formal dresses: long, floaty, layered (visualise Abigail's Party); they showcased wonderful colours and fabrics.
As the exhibition pointed out, Grace's appeal for the masses in the 1950s was that she wore clothes that any girl could have worn - even to meet a Prince..... and I think I follow the masses here....

The quilt exhibition was quite different in atmosphere; the lighting was kept low to protect the items, making it seem mysterious and almost sacred. Many of the quilts on show featured applique and embroidery - picture quilts, symbolic, incorporating religious texts, or commemorating people or events. But I have to say, I preferred the traditional pieced and quilted exhibits - some of which were surprisingly ancient yet in excellent condition. The Bishops Court Quilt, shown below, dates from around 1690.


One coverlet was unfinished, and was on display so that the front and back could be viewed with the paper pieces used in the construction on show. The papers can provide important historical evidence for dating quilts - the one on show used old receipts and ledger papers.
The 65 quilts on show were mainly from the V&A's own collection but also included a number of new works by contemporary artists, which were on loan - some commissioned especially for the show. It could be argued that some of the newer works were not "quilts" at all - they more explored the term as an artistic concept. For me, quilts represent safety and comfort, and I did not take to being challenged by cutting edge art forms. I liked Sara Impey's "Punctuation" - a silk machine-quilt poem of fragmented phrases. However, my favourite of the modern works was Tracey Emin's bed (no - not the bed but "To Meet My Past" 2002) - neither the artist nor this work could really be said to represent safety and comfort, but I found it poignantly pleasing.


Quilts: 1700 - 2010 runs at the V&A until July 4th, and
Grace Kelly: Style Icon runs until September 26th.

Posted on April 25, 2010 at 8:26 AM

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Monday April 12, 2010

Croydon Film Festival

Rob has had a film short listed for the Short Film Contest, so this evening we went to a screening of the 12 chosen films in the Croydon Clocktower. A tiny excerpt is featured in the title flash sequence on the website - Rob is 9th out of the 10 shown, (2 are not shown as they have potentially offensive content). The theme was "passion".


My favourites were "The Boyfriend Song" - which seemed very derivative of the Monkees (who are likely unknown to the musicians... ) but none the worse for that, and "The Perfect Cup" as the film makers seemed to be having such a laugh. Rob did not progress to the next stage of voting - which is a shame - but I think most of the ones I liked did not get through to the next stage - and 2 I really disliked got through. However, they are not being judged simply on the content.

Posted on April 12, 2010 at 1:51 PM

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Saturday March 20, 2010

Jethro Tull


Lots of fun at the Fairfield Halls - much of it observing the audience. I had hoped the photo would contain more bobbing bald heads and pony tails - but I think the climb to our seats made for a younger demographic...
Our seats were "at the very back" - the furthest up and back you could possibly go - in fact I was not aware that Fairfield Halls went up quite that far... the Gods were full of wheezing middle-aged people - as we sat down the couple next to us said "o - well-done!".

Some single-leg work (as below in Basel 2008) - well done indeed!.

Posted on March 20, 2010 at 10:35 AM

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Saturday March 13, 2010

Birthday Bash

This year: Fliss's birthday bash on the day itself.


We went to Jimmy Spices - but the cake was home made by Fliss's stepdaughter, Helen - and it was one of the most delicious carrot cakes I have ever had - despite Helen "just using the first recipe that showed up on-line" and not having any walnuts. I think she thought we were kidding but it really was great - how I love carrot cakes!
Look closely for the piggy candles.

Posted on March 13, 2010 at 11:26 PM

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Sunday March 7, 2010

Is it that time already..?


Can't believe it's already a year since I met up with some of my old school friends. Anyway - here we are again in Canterbury this time. It is so great to see everyone.

Canterbury is a lovely city - I don;t think I have ever been there before - so I took a few photos and admired the cathedral from afar.


This is because I was too mean to pay the really excessive charge to get in. I don't know why it offends me so - but it does. Intellectually I believe that in a time when fewer and fewer go to church then lots of us heathens that want to trip around as tourists should fund the building - but my heart feels it's wrong. Still - Canterbury as a religious tourist attraction with tacky souvenirs etc is very traditional - probably dates back to the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170 causing a massive increase in urban development in Southwark, and even the reconstruction of London Bridge as pilgrims followed the route of Becket's last journey from there to Canterbury (as described in the Canterbury Tales in the late 1300s).


Above is a detail of the Christ Church Gate - off Butter Market (below) and where you "pay". The centre statue of Christ dates only from 1991 - the original bronze having been destroyed during the Civil War in 1642.


Posted on March 7, 2010 at 1:29 PM

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Saturday October 10, 2009

Harrow Inn Beer Festival


Rob was dancing at the Harrow in honour of their beer festival, and as it's local to us, G and I went along.



It was fun, although I think the Landlord made a slight error in the logistics, since it resulted in my not drinking anything at all, never mind the beer, (though I did eat the pig roast).
The Morris Men were overcome with delight that they were joined by Roy Dommett a leading figure in Morris tradition and expert on its history and techniques.


Posted on October 10, 2009 at 4:54 PM

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Friday October 9, 2009

Knitting and Stitchery Show 2009

This year the main exhibit in the Alexandra Palace entrance hall was the impressive: "Casting Off...A Coat for a Boat!".


Textile designer Ingrid Wagner was lead artist and on this amazing community project which was created with the help of contributors hailing from the North East region as well as internationally, and with the support of The North East Maritime Trust.

Every section of the boat exhibit provided fascinating detailed works of knitted art.


All the poor little fish caught in the nets - though they look cheerful enough about it!


And spot the rats leaving the (hopefully not!) sinking ship.


Fewer photos overall than in previous years indicates how interesting it all was and how busy we were looking around.
I would have liked to take photos of some of the artist's work but of course that was mostly prohibited. I did enjoy one artist who made delightful fine ceramic mugs, jugs and other items, which looked as though they were made of paper, and charmingly painted with floral (and other) designs. Hard to describe without a photo! However, she had already sold all her stock on only Day 2 of the show.

My first item on the agenda for the day was to hand in my completed Macmillan Blanket at the Knitter Magazine stand. That done we were free to roam, observe and buy!

As to our purchases: we saw Fi Morris and Sheila was very smitten with one of her patterns; we had to order the (discontinued) Wendy wool for it when we got home. I am very glad I did Fi's workshop to understand her specialist techniques for when I get round to knitting it! I bought some bargain Sirdar Peru and Patons Misty - yet more cardigans; some lovely beads for Christmas gift necklaces; some earring attachments to supplement my Alison-made stitch markers (I use them all the time and never have enough); and Italian sock wool for... never you mind what.

Posted on October 9, 2009 at 11:49 PM

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Friday September 11, 2009

I Knit London Weekender


After meeting with a client in London, I went to the I Knit Weekender.

There was a lot to look at - not a huge venue but that made it quite relaxing. The vendors were high quality and more focused (on knitting and fibre) than at Ally Pally. I was delighted to see Jane Waller's vintage book "A Stitch in Time" had its own display on the Arbour House stand. I spent some time chatting to the people there and checking out the vintage knitting examples on show.


I bought one or two items and was very pleased with myself as they are all things I need - maybe! - bargain sock wool for Terry's what-is-now-traditional Christmas socks, "Herdy" mugs** (one for me, and others for gifts), and a bargain skein of silk/mohair from Knitwitches. It was great to see the Nichols button collection in the flesh - though I could not persuade myself to buy any right there and then (no suitable current projects); I did however find an excellent button seller - Textile Garden - really nice people and really nice-looking buttons that did not break the bank - and I bought a couple of sets of buttons for my cardigan projects, plus some that I simply "liked" to send to Alison.
I also bought a pattern for a remembrance day poppy - proceeds to the poppy fund. I thought this was an excellent idea but I can't see myself using it on the day - have to keep explaining to people that although it does not look much like a memorial poppy, it was sold in aid of the fund.

As well as things to buy there were fashion shows, workshops, and opportunities to meet other knitters over a nice cup of tea (and a sit down).


** At the show they had Herdy piggy banks, which were very appealing, and I see that I Knit now have a limited edition version available in yellow.

Posted on September 11, 2009 at 7:40 PM

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Sunday August 9, 2009


We extended hour holiday as much as we could by executing a slight detour to the town of Lavenham. It is an almost fossilized medieval town in Suffolk, about 5 miles from Sudbury (where my Granny used to live..). It prospered from the wool trade in the 15th and 16th century, and became massively wealthy exporting the trademark blue broadcloth - high quality worsted cloth made from Suffolk sheep fleece (the same type given to me by my friend Ava).


We were there to see the National Trust property - the Guildhall of the wool guild of Corpus Christi. It is in the centre of the village overlooking the market square, and dates from 1529. Inside there was an exhibition detailing the history and manufacture of the cloth, and outside, a pretty dye garden with pictorial guide to the plants.


Yesterday, on our way to the coast, we briefly stopped at the National Trust property Horsey Windpump; the pump and the day were fine, but we were hoping to take advantage of a Tea Shop. Unfortunately theirs was just not the kind of cosy tea shop we were looking for (and sort of "expect" at NT properties, though they do vary according to their situation) - so we left.
Move on 24 hours and Lavenham provided the perfect venue - and so we ended our holiday - tucking into the perfect cream tea for two. If this picture makes you feel a little sea-sick, remember that Lavenham is renowned for its little crooked houses.


[This was probably the only saving grace for George, since his disgust equalled my delight in finding that the exhibits were devoted to spinning, dyeing, and weaving.]

Posted on August 9, 2009 at 10:58 PM

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Great Yarmouth

You can take your "pleasure craft" from the North Broads down to Yarmouth but this is not really a holiday for amateurs like us. The waters become tidal and you have to be very careful not to become stranded, and there are many other hazzards. So we decided to visit the historic town by spending our last night there before returning home.


Yarmouth's history is all around - and pretty easy to spot through the trappings of modern additions. Our hotel itself, the Imperial, was delightful - an old building on the sea front, originally opened in the 1800s as a boarding house for men - its fascinating history with photos is displayed in the hotel foyer.

However, Yarmouth was not quite what I expected. A little more like Blackpool rather than Portsmouth - though, as my colleague Tony points out, I do not think I have ever been to Blackpool so I cannot really make that comparison! It is a real bright-lights-and-entertainment-like place. True - there were many people with tattoos but just not the jolly jack tars I was expecting (ok I admit - my ideas lie somewhere in the 19th century). So - we were able to finally get an excellent "fish and chip supper" at the famous Harry Ramsden's - unfortunately not its traditional home, which is in Yorkshire, but part of a worldwide chain.

The town is full of relics of the Victorian era - read about them here - I wish I had printed off these walks and information prior to coming here. Many music halls and other venues are all still standing - but either derelict or mutilated by modern annexes and flashing neon lights. The saddest was the Winter Garden - where some attempt has been made to commercialise it as a theme park of sorts - but currently it is closed up (supposedly only temporarily for "essential maintenance") together with its theme park contents, and only the lovely Victorian glass house left to admire from the outside.

There was a lot more to offer beyond gazing glumly at the past - here I am reclining on a concrete sofa (modern sculpture) - and almost alongside are some archaeological remains of an ancient monastery.


Once we had moved along the sea front to the more industrial part, at the mouth of the river, we found the Nelson monument. It is out of the town and (on a Sunday at least) quite deserted. Some suggest it does not have the pride of position it deserves but I loved it, in all its splendour, surrounded by light industry.


On our way out, we saw the complications of living in a town divided by a busy river.


Posted on August 9, 2009 at 12:58 PM

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Saturday August 8, 2009



Our overnight destination was Great Yarmouth - but we first reached the coast at Caister, (that is the place of origin for Alison's knitalong gansey pattern).
Here we wanted to have the true seaside experience before going to (what turned out to be only) my vision of an industrial working port. More of that later....

In Caister we were lucky to witness their moving the old lifeboat - both George and I thought this was the lifeboat - as that's what they were like when we were kids! However you can see the two views of the boats: one, destined to be housed as a museum piece and the other, the modern boat they now use.

Caister_20090808_0684.jpg Caister_20090808_0689.jpg

There are wooden commemorative boards listing all the boats and "lives saved". From 1857 to 1969, a British record total of 1814 lives saved. And these guys are all volunteers.
"Caister Men Never Turn Back"

Posted on August 8, 2009 at 6:17 PM

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Leaving the boat and on to Hickling


We set off early - and cruised across Barton Broad in delightful sunlight. We were so early, we took a little diversion up to Sutton and back, before handing in the keys to the boat and returning to dry land and our car.

As we were not able to get under Potter Heigham Bridge and cruise around Hickling Broad, (frightening the living daylights out of the wildlife I suspect), we decided to visit the nature reserve at Hickling by road. It was an incredibly hot day, we took the nature trail, and saw "nothing" at least neither the crane family, nor the bitterns - which you see if you are patient - but we were not. We had lovely views across the Broad, but very few birds about in the middle of such a hot day.


Amusingly though, we saw a lot of "little birds" ahead on the dusty track and making a lot of noise in the adjacent scrub. They were not all the same species and having made notes of what I glimpsed of them, I concluded (after reference to the books) that one of them must have been the bearded tit I have been wanting to see all along. Not being a twitcher, I would have preferred a longer and better view of him - but maybe next time.

A Duck a Day: The Cormorant

No - these are not shags (butt of many a British joke) but cormorants.


They made a beautiful picture lining our route through Barton Broad, as they were drying their wings in the early morning sunshine on every post marking the navigable water.


Posted on August 8, 2009 at 12:20 PM

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Friday August 7, 2009

Cockshoot to Gayes Staithe


Our final day and night on board.
We spent the day at Cockshoot Broad, which is adjacent to the nature reserve at Ranworth Broad. You cannot motor into, or moor at the Ranworth - so you moor up at Cockshoot and take a riverside board-walk from there.

We decided to moor for the night at one of the staithes closest to the boat yard, as we had to be back there by about 9am the following morning. They are quite popular so we made good time and took the first berth we saw at the peaceful Gayes Staithe. However there were a couple of families there who (I would say somewhat charitably) were "having a good time" so in the end it was not quite as peaceful as we would have liked...
However we were able to walk into Neatishead for an excellent meal at Ye Olde Saddlery Restaurant.
While walking there we purchased some home-made fudge and flapjacks from unmanned stalls at the end of resident's gardens - an honesty-based industry. And our journey back was by moonlight (though in addition we had prudently packed torches).


And by the time we returned, peace reigned - the boisterous families having obviously collapsed in their beds ("tired and emotional" no doubt).

A Duck a Day: Tufted Ducks

A duck at last.
These may not look much like the typical picture of a tufted duck - in fact I had to reassure myself that I had identified them correctly with someone else's photo of a pair.


We watched this little duck family for some time from a hide in the nature reserve.


She had more than 3 ducklings but they were never above water all at the same time!


Along the board walk we also observed this secretive moorhen. We saw plenty of coots on our holiday but hardly any moorhens.


Posted on August 7, 2009 at 11:14 PM

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Thursday August 6, 2009

Horning again


We moored up opposite Horning*, that is, on the other side of the river. Try as we might we could not find a means to get to the other side and revisit the Bure River Cottage restaurant. There is a ferry but it does not run after 5pm - very frustrating - next time we vowed we would be towing a little rowing boat, even though that makes mooring even more stressful. So we had to settle for a walk through the nature reserve and "home cooking".

* note that the view of nature above is not our mooring at Horning, but taken earlier while on the move.

A Duck a Day: The Heron

Another amazing bird we take for granted. They are still as statues when at rest, and it seems incredible but you can miss spotting them even in the most obvious places.


They are so BIG - and so amusing in flight, with their untidy wing action and impossibly long legs trailing behind.


Time to dry out.


Posted on August 6, 2009 at 10:22 PM

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Wednesday August 5, 2009

North of Horning

In the spirit of a traditional self catering holiday from our youth, there have been many fry-ups and bacon sandwiches as brunch, lunch, and dinner (usually not all on the same day!). In this vein, it was our ambition to find somewhere to have fish and chips - but such places seemed hard to find; though one exists at Potter Heigham, we were not there at the right time to eat.
Last night in Horning however, we found a fish restaurant, and decided to eat there - but it was so much more than a "fish and chip" restaurant. It is a simply excellent restaurant, and you can find many other rave reviews on the web of the Bure River Cottage Restaurant ("possibly the best restaurant in East Anglia" etc). We tucked into much healthier (and tastier) fish cakes, sardines, and grilled sea bass.

Norfolk5-boats_8775.jpg Norfolk5-boats_8776.jpg

The pictures show two of the "other" types of boat we saw quite frequently - one the tourist trip mock paddle steamer, and the other an old style wooden sailing boat. The tourist boat regularly "steams" up and down the river form Horning all day. But this evening as we had we moored up in a peaceful location away from any of the towns, we discovered that it also does night trips....! First we heard a terrible disco beat in the distance which gradually got louder and louder until a brilliantly lit boat came into view - it passed by, with cheering party-goers shining spotlights on us as we stood gazing open-mouthed in horror from the deck of our little craft. The whole experience was quite unbelievable. Then the noise faded into the distance - and then grew louder again as it went into the Broad adjacent to our mooring, (this is a Broad with clearly well-heeled residents on its banks, so heaven knows how they put up with it every night! ). We were treated to this cheerful serenading for well over an hour, with their passing us on the river yet again before they returned to Horning.

A Duck a Day: The Grebe

The great crested grebe is no longer an uncommon sight on any of our rivers, but is such a wonderful and extraordinary bird. Grebes are some of the oldest species of bird, and do have a rather prehistoric look about them.


This is my favourite picture - not the usual smartly turned out grebe. It is sometimes hard to catch a picture of grebes - especially little grebes - no sooner you get the glasses on them than they dive. This is the result of all that effort - a bit waterlogged.


Here with a hanger-on...


The young do not look at all like the adults, and if you did not see them together you might not easily guess.


Posted on August 5, 2009 at 9:12 PM

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Tuesday August 4, 2009

South Walsham and Horning


We took our time cruising around the Broads on our way to Horning - which was hosting a regatta, held over several days. They were fine about allowing tourists to blunder through the racing ("keep to the right pleasure craft - you are fine"). Perversely we managed to blunder through quite a few times in our travels.
Mooring in Horning was difficult, but one of the major riverside pubs, the Ferry Inn, had closed down (hopefully temporarily), so it was possible to use their mooring without much difficulty, though they had annoying taken up all the mooring rings. It was then a short walk into the town for amusement and supplies.

A Duck a Day: The Coot

A very under-rated bird - by me at any rate.


But I do love their "almost" webbed feet. You mostly see them swimming, but their feet, when revealed, are huge and somehow ridiculous looking - like unintentional clowns.


I am not doing so well on showing actual ducks in this feature. However, here we have some Muscovy Ducks - not natives of course but fairly common in the UK - mostly domesticated rather then feral, I think.


Posted on August 4, 2009 at 4:37 PM

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Monday August 3, 2009

Potter Heigham... and back again


We went on what may develop into a ritual visit to Potter Heigham, hoping to be able to get under the bridge, and thus on to Hickling Broad. [It is my ambition to see a bearded tit (it's a bird) and they frequent only the north Broads]. However, the water was high and nothing of our height was being let through. We were only about 2 inches too high for the water level, and they said we could wait for low water at 5pm but we abandoned the enterprise and I accepted it wasn't going to happen this holiday. We turned back towards South Walsham Broad and Horning. Use the pop-up to see the map.


A Duck a Day: The Goose

I had forgotten the Egyptian Goose who features all over the Broads, so he was a lovely surprise for me all over again.


Such lovely plumage I can't resist another view of it.


This one looked very amusing to us - stuck on the skyline on the roof of someone's house. It shows you two features of the holiday - the goose and the wonderful decorative ridge of the thatched roof. Thatch is no longer a quaint olde worlde feature in Norfolk but is recognised as the economic and practical roofing material that it always was. The sedge is once again being properly managed (improving wildlife habitats) and more younger people are training as thatchers.


There were other geese too - here are some greylags. Huge honking flocks of them wheeled overhead at dusk.


Posted on August 3, 2009 at 6:36 PM

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Sunday August 2, 2009

How Hill to Thurne

Our first night was a How Hill - a well-known centre in the Broads.

Norfolk2-How Hill_0041.jpg

It is very beautiful - the Broads are full of views like this. Even the ubiquity of pleasure craft like our own does not spoil it (though I guess it might take the edge off it for those trying to sail!). And, amazingly, you can always find some peaceful places to moor up in the evening.


A Duck a Day: The Swan

Norfolk2-Duck_0576.jpg There are a lot of birds on the Broads - from the commonplace to the unusual. So rather than holiday snaps, I am featuring them. They are not all ducks, so forgive me.

Our very first bird was a splendid view of a Kingfisher - he was posing on a mooring rope but we failed to get a picture. After that we saw quite a few more typical views - just a flash of bright colour across the water.

So today we feature swans - as in our fist view here - they know how to exploit the tourists ...aaah.....


Much later in our trip we were to see black swans - on the Broads north of Horning.


Posted on August 2, 2009 at 9:12 PM

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Tranquility on the Broads

So what did we do?
We went on holiday!


It was great - we hired our "pleasure craft" (Ruby Gem) from Richardson's boatyard at Stalham. It started splendidly with nice late afternoon sunshine on Day One* and a reasonable mooring at How Hill. You can see that George immediately took to the relaxed way of it all.

G-relaxing2.jpg G-relaxing3.jpg

*Night One the rain absolutely swamped us and the retractable roof of our little craft leaked like a sieve, but I am glad to say that despite other rain incidents, this was not repeated.

Posted on August 2, 2009 at 6:42 PM

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Wednesday July 15, 2009



For months (since I heard the review on Front Row) I have been looking forward to the musical version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - and it did not disappoint - me, that is - and Rob thought it was hilarious.
There was some criticism in the early reviews - that it lacked heart - and I do have to say that the "plot" did not come over quite as emotionally moving as in the film. However, it made up for it in humour and spectacle. The costumes were so outrageous - as each one appeared you could not imagine how they could ever outdo it, and yet they did so right through to the end of the show.
The film (which I loved) was all about the drama of the people and the scenery. It was hard to see how a musical could ever compete on those terms - so of course they changed it - into a musical - and I thought it was fantastic.

Priscilla is in London at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.

Posted on July 15, 2009 at 9:27 AM

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Saturday July 11, 2009

Gipsy Kings

Last night Rob and I went to Kew Gardens Summer Swing concert to see the Gipsy Kings. They performed everything expected of them (Bamboleo) as well as newer materials - and were on excellent form. I was pretty keen on the Cuban sound of Motimba who entertained us for the first hour as well. A fun evening out.


Posted on July 11, 2009 at 9:27 AM

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Thursday July 9, 2009

150th (Last Ever) Royal Show

When we heard that this year's Royal Show at Stoneleigh is to be the last of its kind, my sister and I determined that we would go together. She really enjoyed last year - and brought me back some llama slivers which I made into this scarf.

Thus, naturally, my interest was in llamas as well as sheep and alpacas. I bought some alpaca fleece (white) and my sister found that an alpaca does not cost as much as she thought (watch this space!). However, Lyn's interest is mainly in the horses and chicken - so between us we sought out all of the animals and displays - not to mention the food - that we could find.

These pop-up panoramas give some idea of the size if the venues as well as the vast array of animals on show in just one category (which I think was dairy herds in this case).


We spent some time at the equestrian arena - watched a little Polocrosse and the Pony Club games. Here the young riders line up to show off native pony breeds.


Our final activity of the day was watching the final equestrian Driven Championship. A little different from the pony club...

And so... almost unbelievably, it really is to be the last such show ever - they have finally come to terms with it no longer being financially viable. [What will the Archers have to talk about now?]

Posted on July 9, 2009 at 11:25 PM

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Saturday July 4, 2009


To my surprise, George wanted to go to the Smallholders Show at Ardingly. It was a fun day out - especially for me as there were sheep and fleeces. I fell victim to another purchase - a Portland fleece. I have no idea how sought after they are (not very I suspect), or how well they spin, but I know they are a rare breed - the skein on show seemed pretty soft. My fleece is second from the right on the shelf.


We wandered around - there was lots going on, as in my little picture album below. Lots of things to buy, demonstrations, things to eat, and, of course, many animals. I favoured the sheep, but there were lots of more domestic animals on show - including ferrets, who simply would not be sufficiently still for me to capture a good picture (I have lot of bad ones). The ferrets were having races, but these more sedentary chaps made a good picture - cute little lop-eared bunnies.


I saw the Wealden Spinners, and admired a MajaCraft Little Gem, (I have never seen one in the flesh before). I missed seeing Pam from Creative Fibres, who was obviously taking a break as I passed by.

Posted on July 4, 2009 at 7:07 PM


It's so much fun to visit the animals and fleeces at a festival. Unfortunately, I still have way too much yarn and fiber and need to knit and spin instead of shopping. It's going to be a struggle this fall either not going to the sheep and wool festivals or not buying anything there!

Posted by: Cathy in Va on August 21, 2009 3:15 AM

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Thursday July 2, 2009



A lovely hot day which I spent at my sister's pool. It looks wonderful doesn't it?


But it's a little like the proverbial millstone for my sister, in that it takes a lot of effort to maintain and gets very little use. The last two summers have been so awful that she had resolved to fill it in - but the past week has seen neighbours and relatives "just dropping in" with their towels and costumes.... so now she feels like a local social amenity.... During the time I was there, two sets of neighbours and a golfing friend of Terry came for a swim. One of the visitors was Toria (Felicity's owner) and her little daughter, so I was able to hand over the pair of wild fetching mittens made from Felicity's fleece and some Kool-Aid.

I took my new spindle (with alpaca) and when I was not swimming I was spinning - which the observers found less eccentric than I imagined they might. But it was good to "drop" spin over grass, and was altogether such a lovely evening I found it hard to tear myself away from the poolside.


Posted on July 2, 2009 at 11:05 PM

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Saturday June 27, 2009

Homeward bound

Still great weather as I head off back south after another substantial breakfast in perfect surroundings. As it's a 400 mile drive I decided to actively plan to take all day and make a couple of scheduled stops. First I found a National Trust property that was about half way and not too far off the M6 at Congleton:- Little Moreton Hall.


As you can see, it's a (real!) Tudor building in an amazingly good state of repair; I realised we must have visited it before when we were returning from a holiday in the Lakes about 10 years ago - but it is sufficiently remarkable that it certainly warrants more than one visit. It's one of the finest surviving timber-framed moated manor houses in the country. The earliest parts date from 1504, and despite being lived in and used as a farmhouse until 1938, the whole house has hardly changed since 1610.


Above is my best attempt at capturing a view of the internal courtyard design; the plants in the foreground are for sale - I bought my self a sorrel, which is not a herb I have seen much in supermarkets - it's a bit like a weed. But now I can make Delia's baked salmon and sorrel creams.

The sorrel was extra to requirements for the herb gardens they have planted - there's a charming hedged knot garden, which I could not photograph very effectively. However the herbs are also in beds outside the knot garden, with explanations as to how they were used as remedies. Here is a pretty view to one side along the moat - herbs on the right.


As I walked alongside the moat I saw this wonderful family of ducks. There were at least eight ducklings, but they kept diving under the water so not all in view at once! So cute...


Inside the building I could not take photos, but there's access to an example of the famous Tudor Long Gallery, grain store, and bedrooms, etc I was sorry to miss the exhibition on weaving and textiles planned for July, but this months exhibition was of medieval musical instruments, such as the tabor, and hurdy gurdy. There was a chap in full costume demonstrating how to play them and full hands-on for anyone who wanted.

I resumed my journey in the early afternoon and was able to round off the day by visiting Sheelagh and Roger as I passed through the Oxford area. As usual, they were very hospitable and I had a lovely break with them - plus (several) cups of tea and biscuits!

Posted on June 27, 2009 at 9:23 PM


Did you by any chance eat Congleton Pie?

This is the sort of place we need to take the boys next time we are in the UK...some real history!

Posted by: Alison on July 4, 2009 8:57 PM

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Friday June 26, 2009

Woolfest 2009

The second I entered the building (Mitchell's Lakeland Livestock Centre) and the faint but delightful smell of sheep hit my nostrils, I knew it was going to be a Good Day.
Indeed, it has been such a fantastic day I can hardly begin to describe it - but I shall anyway ...

I made my way first to the information desk and happily was able to book for the Natural Dying Lecture as well as the Tatie Pot dinner in the evening. I browsed the exhibition stands and immediately made my first purchase of a small bag of Spelsau fleece - I fancy it for the colour (grey) - Berit Kiilerich is doing a workshop on knitting directly from the fleece, but I plan to try spinning it.
I had a word with Nancy Bush, who seemed relatively thrilled to be here; I am not sure where she hails from but I think it was something to do with being here with the weather and "where it all comes from" - though the weather is atypically sunny here and everywhere is pretty hot at the moment.

I visited the large vendor's stands (P&M, Wingham, and Herring/Ashford) as there were one or two specific items on my list to buy while there. From there I worked my way towards the livestock stands, and the lovely old sheep, who were very brave and well-behaved considering all those human eyes staring at them. At this end of the building, there was an area devoted to the private sale of fleeces - I took the opportunity to look at as many different types of fleece as I could, and I did (in the end) buy a small black Hebridean lamb fleece (about 2lbs).

Just before lunch I went to the rare breeds parade in the auction ring. I really enjoyed this part. I found the information about rare breeds, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and the specific sheep, truly fascinating. Here are all the stars of the show that I went to meet later in person.










Manx Loaghton


Rough Fell

Rough Fell




After lunch - more browsing to the constant faint sounds of traditional tunes from the Music area. Here you could sit down and (in my case) review your purchases. The later part of the afternoon was the lecture on Natural Dyeing given by Carol Leonard. I made lots of notes, and afterwards, I purchased the small booklet Natural Dyes - Fast or Fugitive by Gill Dalby, but as I suspected, when I got home I discovered that my earliest book on spinning from the 1980s is also by her and has similar information. I also bought a couple of natural dyes (Brazilwood and Alkanet), but mostly the lecture encouraged me to experiment and try out more natural substances - and as Carol said: "you can get some simply wonderful colours - if you like yellow...".

Then it was time for the final purchases before the Tatie Pot dinner and Spin-In. I was lucky to impose myself a lovely group of knitters from Coventry (by chance) who made me feel very welcome - whatever they thought! I had bought a pretty spindle - just for its looks (from Whorl Drop Spindles) - it's made from an exotic seed pod of some kind. So I spent the spin-in trying to spin some alpaca I had also just purchased. In my case, there was more dropping than spinning but Clare, Julie, and Jane were really encouraging, and I had great fun.

Finally, it all ended at 9 and I set off back to the hotel; it is very light in the evenings now, so I could fully appreciate the wonderful scenery of the winding back roads.

Finally - my pictorial album of the day:




Nancy's stand

Long Draw

Parade Ring


Fleece Sale

Fleece Sale


Herdwick Sheep


Swill Baskets

Music Area

Herdwick Rope

Herdwick Rope

Herdwick Rope




Posted on June 26, 2009 at 10:22 PM


It looks just wunnerful - I wish I had been there.

Posted by: Alison on July 1, 2009 7:29 PM

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Thursday June 25, 2009


Some time later I arrived at my planned destination in the Lake District. The drive up here was pleasurable and easy (although 300 miles and I am exhausted). My hotel is on the banks of the lake, and could not be more beautifully set.

I took a brief tour of the grounds, read my book in the gardens...

and then continued to read in the conservatory accompanied by a G&T. I retired to bed quite early. This is a self portrait - I have been unable to suppress this grin the entire time I've been here.

The hotel is at the north end of the lake, allowing me an short drive to Cockermouth tomorrow.
Because tomorrow....
Tomorrow I am going to... Woolfest!

Posted on June 25, 2009 at 9:21 PM

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Sent to Coventry

I have had the most fantastic few days, and it has taken me a while to gather my thoughts and write about it all here. It all began when a colleague asked me to visit a customer in Coventry....

The morning meeting went well, and at lunchtime I felt I should take the opportunity of taking another look at Coventry Cathedral.

I first went there when I was a child - it seemed an important talking point in my childhood both at school and at church - and I now realise it was because it was pretty well brand new at the time (foundation stone laid in 1956 and consecrated in 1962). Because of Coventry's history, for that generation of adults, it must have been a beacon of splendour, representing the final re-emergence after the "dark days" of World War II. These "dark days" were still very evident all through my childhood - everything was affected by them even though I had no real understanding of what it all meant.

The original cathedral was notoriously bombed in the 1940s and always rumoured to have been "left to burn" despite the government supposedly having prior information of the raid. As a consequence, Churchill was never accepted as the hero of the hour by the people of the Midlands, who felt he was personally responsible for letting them down. It was a devastating blow to see the spendour of such a beautiful building reduced to rubble.

Today, the old cathedral remains as a ruin alongside the new building which "bridges" from it. If anything I find the ruin a tranquil and beautiful place which seems strangely even more reverent and holy for its minimalism - perhaps because of the contrast with the modern.

The new building was designed by Basil Spence; his design was chosen after a competition, and used fragments of the rubble reset to create something quite remarkable. Warped nails were used as the centre of the main altar cross, and countless splinters of glass were used to create wonderful abstract stained glass windows. There are a lot of poor photos of these on the web but I liked this one - it gives some idea of being there.
The new stained glass windows are set at an angle to the walls of the building, so that as you face the altar you cannot see them. This is a design point intended so that as you walk away from the altar (after communion), you are struck full on by the wonderful light and glory - and so on...

The tapestry behind the altar was designed by Graham Sutherland - a controversial artist at the time - Churchill's wife is rumoured to have burnt Sutherland's portrait of the great man which demonstrated a little too much realism, showing not the hero but an old chap in decline. I seem to have disproportionate amount of Sutherland trivia in my brain which must have been drummed into it while at primary school.

After the cathedral, I walked past the adjacent Holy Trinity church and decided against entering (feet hurt - long journey ahead). Turns out this was a mistake. From 2002-4 a major restoration was carried out to make a Doom Painting dating from around 1430 visible once again. Something for my next visit - in sensible shoes.

And after all this excitement - instead of travelling home in the afternoon I set off North....

Posted on June 25, 2009 at 4:20 PM

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Friday June 5, 2009

Spider's Web

I have seen several productions of this play before* but luckily I never seem to retain much about the plot - although it incorporates a number of favourite AC devices, like the faked bridge game where the players set everything up but fail to notice that they are supposed to have played several rubbers with a card missing from the pack.

This version was excellently staged by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company who were responsible for And Then There Were None [from the book of a different name, based entirely on a (now) totally unacceptable nursery rhyme], and which we saw a couple of years ago in the West End. Melanie Gutteridge carries the show as the perfect and charming 1950s little woman Clarissa - a role apparently originally written with Margaret Lockwood in mind. The performances were convincing and made the dialogue light and humorous - quite unlike And Then There Were None which was suitably dark and menacing.

* I have also listened to a strangely-written talking book version of this play. "Strangely-written" since this was not originally ever a novel but always a script. The talking book more or less actually described the play and all its action within the single setting of the drawing room. Very odd.

Posted on June 5, 2009 at 11:39 PM

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Friday May 1, 2009

May Day

It was a beautiful sunny morning - the sun rose over a misty hillside and Morris Men danced in the Dawn at 5am on Box Hill.
Here they are:


And I missed it....

I am very disappointed with myself, when I think of all horrible May Days I have trekked up to Box Hill to greet a drizzly grey dawn. Sigh.
Anyway - they had quite a crowd attending as usual. There were several Morris sides as well as Spring Grove (Thames Valley, Wild Hunt, etc) - including a bunch of ramblers who turn up every year apparently - but this year they had specially learnt one dance so they could perform it on the day - great isn't it? Just what Morris should be. People dancing.

Here Spring Grove / Off Spring are on St Georges Day (23rd April) at the beginning of the "season" (with a surprisingly grand turn out). Several jigs have been performed, and baldrics presented to newly qualified members.


Posted on May 1, 2009 at 5:46 PM


Great pic of Robert - is he the Morris official big cheese these days?

Posted by: Alison on May 4, 2009 7:22 PM

Yes. Big Cheese/Squire.

Posted by: Christina on May 4, 2009 10:37 PM

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Thursday April 9, 2009

Encounters in Richmond

I am just slipping in a retrospective blog entry which was by-passed due to my hurried departure to France (it's always hurried).


The day before we left I had theatre tickets for "Brief Encounter" and Rob came with me as George was hard-pressed to finish up at work in time for our holiday. We had moderate expectations, but how wrong we were - it was brilliant. And I am now so very particularly glad Rob came with me to see this.

It really was a "theatrical extravaganza". It involved a full plate of multi-media offerings that really worked, including the actors stepping into back-projected films, singing and dancing, and many delightful tricks, with charming references to the famous film. It was original and fresh - and in Rob's words "restores your faith in provincial theatre" - if that's not too patronising - it's not meant to be.

The production was witty, entertaining and quite jolly, as it actually followed the interaction of 3 couples, not just the main protagonists. The projections were used brilliantly - designed by Jon Driscoll* with Gemma Carrington. They created such drama that the scene where Laura returns from the brink of flinging herself into the path of "the express" actually moved me to tears.

* Unbeknownst to me, Jon Driscoll is one of Rob's ex-students who worked on an amusingly short version of Brief Encounter for one of his peer's "Sound to Light" exercises while at college.

The production opened originally in the Haymarket and is now on tour - see their website, and also a much better review than I can give here.

Tempest revisited

If that weren't enough - I also need to say that, I failed to give a proper mention to the last production at Richmond that I went to the week before.


It was the Tempest, and it was more slight nostalgia that caused Rob to be my companion again on this occasion. Once again, our expectations were moderately low - and we were almost late (though not so in the end) as the curtain went up 30 minutes earlier than usual for Richmond. Yet again, how fantastic was this production and how lucky for Rob to get to see it, given his world music and theatrical interests. It was an "African" version including dance, live music, puppetry and lot of "theatre". It starred Anthony Sher as Prospero, and here is Ariel (Atandwa Kani) trapped by the witch's magic, giving some small idea of the power of the puppetry and spectacle.
Again - see the review.


In my defence, all these low expectations are based on the previous few touring plays we went to at Richmond, which were, in my estimation, adequate but not extraordinary. [And the Hound of the Baskervilles, which was downright poor!] But when you find yourself seeing something so terrific, it makes up for the rest - and the pleasure is even more when it is so unexpected.

Posted on April 9, 2009 at 11:22 PM

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Sunday March 8, 2009


I have just spent a really great weekend in Worcester, meeting up with friends I have not really associated with for about 35 years. We all attended the Worthing Technical High School through the dawn of the 1970s. Here we are now - just the same - well - maybe a bit older - and with wives and girlfriends.

Tina (Christina) Mick (Titch) Robert David Nicolette Chris Frank Paul Sheila Ronnie Alison Sylvia Jane Pita Molly Kas

Our school was opened in 1955 as a school designed for vocational study; my own brother was one of the first students in the brand new school. It was endowed with excellent metalwork, woodwork, and home economics departments - and also a small farm!. By the time we were there, this educational experiment had been abandoned, and it was a conventional (although co-ed) grammar. Soon after we left it changed its name and merged with the adjacent school to become a "comprehensive". Now, my friends tell me, they have pulled the old building down, ("without even asking us!")

When we arrived in Worcester, George and I wandered around the town and visited the cathedral, where the Chamber Choir was practising for an early evening performance.

George was absorbed in reading a memorial to poor Richard Solly who in 1803 "whilft on a Tour of Pleafure with his Family was feized with an Inflammation of the Inteftines, which in five Days terminated his Life". George empathises with those who have inflammation of the Inteftines.
Thank heavens for modern medicine.

After George left, I rushed round the town alone - shopping. I was extremely successful, managing to acquire two coats and a pair of shoes - all bargains of course. I also bought myself some bamboo sock needles - a new venture in needles - as I seem to have a lot of sock wool, (not to mention patterns), to get through.

Posted on March 8, 2009 at 8:37 PM

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Saturday January 10, 2009

Dragons Green

Today we travelled through our (currently weird) wintry landscape...


...to meet my sister and have a New Year lunch with cousin David at the George and Dragon at (where else?) Dragons Green. Amusingly, our satellite navigation system was unable to track down the location, and denied all knowledge of any such postal code - "there be Dragons", (obviously). However, once there, food and company, excellent!


The George and Dragon has an unusual memorial at the front, dating from the 1800s; it is dedicated to the, then, landlord's son who was apparently driven to his death by bullying from the locals. The vicar would not tolerate the grave in the churchyard because it was not "suitable". Yet the inscription contained seemingly only the mildest of rebukes: "May God forgive those who forgot their duty to him who was just and afflicted".

Posted on January 10, 2009 at 6:47 PM

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Monday January 5, 2009

Henley between the holidays

We managed to get together again with Roger and Sheelagh between Christmas and New Year. I didn't take my camera, so I had to wait for this entry, as Sheelagh sent me the photos, (and general lack of time to blog).

We met up in Henley-on-Thames for lunch there's a lot of "-on-Thames" with lots of lovely towns to visit on its banks - see Three Men in a Boat or even the more modern adventure Three Men in a(nother) Boat for details! We lunched at the Angel on the Bridge, which turned out to be just perfect - I ate one of the most perfect traditional roast beef dinners ... well... ever, maybe.


It had fine views over the sunny but cold river, and after lunch we ventured on a short walk.


Here we are looking replete - and pleased with ourselves.

GeorgeandRoger.jpg ChristinaSheelagh.jpg

Posted on January 5, 2009 at 6:34 PM

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Tuesday December 30, 2008

The Rose

Finally managed to go to the Rose theatre in Kingston, which officially opened in January of this year. We saw A Christmas Carol - and it was really excellent, with a small cast playing many parts, a narrator, and excellent use of carols to carry through the plot and scene changes. It was witty, entertaining, and altogether everything that the Hound of the Baskervilles at Richmond should have been, but was not.


I knew nothing about the theatre and its construction prior to going but was delighted that it is (almost) theatre in the round, and as well 3 levels of seating, there is a traditional "pit". It struck me that the design and the name might be in some way connected with the Rose in London - and indeed, of course it is...

Posted on December 30, 2008 at 12:18 AM

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Thursday November 13, 2008


Just a pretty sunrise on the way to Portsmouth, and the ferry to Caen.



Posted on November 13, 2008 at 11:39 AM

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Sunday October 19, 2008


SupremesPoster.jpg Lyn and I finally arranged our outing to the V&A to see the Supremes exhibition - we had been promising it to ourselves since May (before it opened) and just made it before it closed (today).

We enjoyed it as much as we expected - I learned a lot - and it struck me that even though I know what was happening in America at the time of the emergence of Motown, it is not possible to really understand how it was for them. It was similar environment in England, but not the same, and I was too young to understand. Indeed I vividly remember seeing my first black bus conductor during a trip to London when I was about 5 years old - I was utterly fascinated (he was very understanding, and chatted to me for a bit.).

In addition to what we saw, they had family events and sessions offering, for example, "Motown Moves" (which I think we would have loved) which examined "the iconic choreography of Motown moves - from hand gestures to simple dance moves, exploring how the 'look' of Motown evolved".

We saw how these young women evolved from the Primettes ... to the Supremes.


The stars of the show were, of course, the costumes. The ones shown above were by Michael Travis - a striking 1960s black and white pattern - all in sequins - spectacular for television. His designs were notably flamboyant and included the famous 'Butterfly' dresses, which were even more lovely to see close up. The "wings" were diaphanous patterned fabric, somewhat besequinned, but the shaped dresses were entirely covered with sequins, forming the same fabric pattern.
See the extended entry.


Most of the outfits of the period were lavish with beading and thousands of sequins (sewn by hand) and costing between one and two thousand dollars each in the 1960s ($13-26,000 at today's prices).

Posted on October 19, 2008 at 4:00 PM


They just look wonderful. I would have liked to see that show.

Posted by: Alison on October 20, 2008 5:08 PM

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Monday September 1, 2008

Billy Again

Yesterday I went into Kingston (on a shopping trip - more of that another time) and watched Rob out dancing with the Morris side.


It was not a great start to Kingston's carnival day - Saturday was fantastic - hot, sunny... and Sunday opened with crashing thunderstorms and pouring rain. However, by lunchtime the worst of the rain had cleared, and the three sides together had a great trip, starting out at Hampton Court and then taking the boat up the river to Kingston and congregating at the Bishop-out-of-Residence (yes, that is a weird name for a pub). This was my first glimpse of them as I walked across Kingston bridge.


The other sides were Thames Valley Morris - seen here dancing I know not what (my ignorance not their dancing):

SpringGrove3Thames Valley.jpg

The other side were Bloxon Morris - which I only just realised looking at their website are a women's side - and I don't have any photos of them. They dance in blue as do Thames Valley and for most of the time I did not realise there was a third side present. I should have realised by the number of Alan's jokes about buxom "o no I mean Bloxon" women.
Nor did I take any photos of the "OffSpring" Morris women. Just want to make it clear this was co-incidence and not at all a slight on women having the effrontery to dance Morris!
Here is a link to the Thames Valley Gallery of the day - and it includes the women.

SpringGrove4amusicians.jpg SpringGrove4musicians.jpg

SpringGrove7Hankies.jpg SpringGrove8swans.jpg

SpringGrove5BillyAgain.jpg SpringGrove6BillyAgain.jpg

Posted on September 1, 2008 at 5:34 PM


How completely and utterly English! Nice pic of Rob.

Posted by: Alison on September 6, 2008 6:30 PM

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Friday July 18, 2008

I ♥ London

It seems so long since the cherries. And we are missing them so much we have already booked our next stay in France - the annual 2 week holiday no less - only a week to go.

I spent several days this week at customers in London, and traveled from the various railways stations and offices by bus. It was moderately efficient, though I noticed a clear difference from when the "congestion charge" first hit London. During those first weeks and months, buses really worked; there was much less traffic in the centre. Since then, the traffic has gradually increased again - now we've all found out how to pay the charge, we are all just doing so, and going into London with our cars when the need arises, just as we did before. They need to invent some new red tape that will have us mystified for a few more months....

However, traveling on the top deck of a bus in the current English summer weather (not too hot; the occasional shower) is just the perfect way to make the most of London during your working day. The tube is more efficient but .... well it's Under Ground isn't it? [the clue's in the name]. Also there isn't a tube right next to our office - and you get to walk along the river from the bus stop.... All so perfect.

This evening I stayed on in London, as Rob and I had booked to go and see "Spamalot" (a "two-for-one" offer - George would have liked to go but has been working late all week and could not make the available dates). It was very funny - nostalgic for us but with some new material and jokes clearly fitted to the latest Arthur.


"I am your king."
"Well I didn't vote for you."
"You don't vote for kings."
"Well how'd you become king then?"
"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king."
"Listen - strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

Posted on July 18, 2008 at 11:18 PM

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Tuesday June 17, 2008

Festival of Creativity - Croydon College

This evening I joined Rob for the summer exhibition of his students work. The departments on show were graphic design, (very polished), video practice, and theatrical design, (Fashion get their turn tomorrow with a catwalk in the Whitgift Centre as part of Croydon's Fashion Festival).


The students take on various design projects - for example, to create complete designs for a show - they may do a model box for the set, draw a number of costumes, and then make one of them up. Here is a project to make a costume from a period deco design and see if it "could be made to work as a practical costume". [Marks are given not only for designs but also for comfort and ability to move].


I saw a lot of design projects and costumes, as well as short dramas - enacted on video and in the Peter Jackman Theatre.

"3" was the third in a series of short theatrical pieces "conceived, designed, directed" (and acted) by Clare Seviour.


These are not drama students and these theatrical pieces evolved out of the "sound to light" projects which used to be part of the lighting course. The students gradually became more and more ambitious in their desire to outdo one another - and this is what has evolved.

It is interesting to see students of the arts developing their talents. It's like watching the first life forms crawl out of the primeval soup and shake off the gloop. They make "mistakes", of course - however, it's hard to judge whether they are actual mistakes in fact - or whether they are intentionally taking a different angle on the subject - making a statement - being young and experimental.

This - as opposed to science, where we all learned what we were told at that level of development. I suppose there was some encouragement to move on from school learning - I remember spending some time explaining to undergraduates doing chemistry practicals (and pestering me to know if they had the right answer) that there were no "right answers" any more, and that any answer they got was valid and needed to be plotted on their graph and a judgement made by themselves as to the significance. Of course this was transparently not true, since they were not actually pushing back the boundaries of science at that point but....
Chemistry practicals. Thrilling discoveries from a bygone age*.
And now.... science departments too expensive to run and no longer required. Brave Old World.

[*Read "The Search" - C P Snow (1934)]

Posted on June 17, 2008 at 11:44 AM

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Saturday June 14, 2008

The Grand Day Out

We went to see Sheelagh and Roger and spent the day together at Blenheim Palace. Contrary to all the weather reports all week and even this very morning... it was a glorious day - and we had a lovely time. Lots of tea was drunk and ice creams consumed. Perfect.


This is an Italian style garden which was our view over lunch. Note that the interesting curved shaping is a feature of the perspective of my photography rather than the design!


...so nice I snapped it twice... our table marked on the right with a red circle...


Going to Blenheim is not an inexpensive day out, but well worth it - they have put a lot of effort into many exhibits, and restored a lot of parts of the gardens. We skipped "the Secret History" exhibition and "Music in the Afternoon" in favour of the gardens, as it was truly such a lovely day. We especially liked the "Secret Garden" - here is a tiny popup section.


I was obviously well-schooled, as, despite having no prior knowledge of the house, (except the name), the gardens really scream Capability Brown - I wonder if our school text books used photos of Blenheim as an example.

We finished our trip by going around the maze - it was late in the day but we were very confident, and we found our way in and out very easily - though it was a bit of a trek. Sadly we discovered we had entered through the "exit" so we did not quite complete the challenge they had in mind. [Duh!]

Later we were back at at Sheelagh and Roger's, being treated to a delicious home cooked meal, in the peaceful surroundings of their conservatory and garden. Even more perfect.

Posted on June 14, 2008 at 11:23 PM

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Sunday May 11, 2008

Seriously... I do have etchings...

It's been a fabulous warm and sunny weekend. Yesterday I did some more work in the garden, and today I met up with my sister in London and we went to the British Museum to see the American Scene - "prints from Hopper to Pollock". Most impressively, this exhibition comes from their own collection of American art - it's nice to see them make use of their wealth of buried treasures for special exhibitions.

This is Night on El Train, (Hopper etching from 1918), which my sister admired:


And this is the signature piece used on the posters - and it is very pleasing - there were others of similar style but this had an appealing sense of dynamism. It's Louis Lozowick view of Manhattan from around 1925.


I was most fascinated by the work of Louise Bourgeois. At Stanley Hayter’s workshop Atelier 17 in the late 30s and 40s, she produced "He disappeared into complete silence", an enigmatic series of prints which are a collection of little parables. The first one struck a chord - it was the first of about 9 plates:

Plate 1

   Once there was a girl and she
loved a man.
   They had a date next to the
eighth street station of the sixth
avenue subway.
   She had put on her good clothes
and a new hat. Somehow he could
not come. So the purpose of this
picture is to show how beautiful
she was. I really mean that she
was beautiful.

I like the flat understatement "somehow he could not come".
You can see why she moved into sculpture, given the forms that interested her.

Posted on May 11, 2008 at 6:43 PM

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Tuesday May 6, 2008

Later in Edinburgh

The weather is so lovely now, I decided to walk back to the station along Princes Street. Quite a different city in the afternoon - the sun had brought out the crowds. Here is a view of the castle from the gardens.


At the other end of the street, I took a picture of the (unfinished) National Monument and Nelsons Monument - it was much more romantic in silhouette in the early morning light but I found I could only get the right angle by standing in the middle of the road, and then the sun was right in the lens - so here it is with the sun shining on it.


And sure enough, on the other corner was the tourist's piper. Speaking as a tourist, the sound of the pipes is great - and he is very obliging in posing with tourists for photos.


The shine was taken off the day slightly by my train being cancelled - I just wish I had known before I got to the station so I could have spent another hour wandering around. However, finally here I am on the train home.

Posted on May 6, 2008 at 4:19 PM

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Early in Edinburgh

I got into Waverley at 6:30, and it was a good thing that the train actually split at this point, one part going on to Glasgow, the other (my part) resting in the station. My end of the train was so far out of the station, that I was calmly sitting on my berth, waiting for the train to go into the station for 10 minutes before I realised we had arrived.


The city was lovely and empty at this time of the morning - here's a view towards the castle from the station...


...and here the Scott monument


I picked up a coffee. Time was that our office boasted a cafeteria where wonderful breakfasts were available, but no more - probably best for our waistlines.... The office was deserted, and although it's impossible to park, the surrounding old buildings make for pleasing views.


Posted on May 6, 2008 at 8:18 AM

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Thursday April 17, 2008

Home for tea

I have been so looking forward to being home with a decent cup of tea. And it's jolly nice. This was one of my last views in Seville yesterday... Aren't they lovely?


The "shop" was down a side alley and I did not stick around as they look kind of non-traditional don't they? I was uncertain whether I would be accosted by an angry avant garde designer who would not want unapproved photos of her work, or drawn into some sleazy flamenco underworld!

I realise I didn't show any photos of the conference centre (Fibes Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones), which was quite an interesting building; here we are exiting (schools out) heading for the coaches back to our hotels.


The sheets of water reminded me of a description in a recent BBC program about India - but I cannot remember if it were Michael Wood's or Monty Don's journey I am remembering (they did visit some of the same places)! It was a fabulous summer palace which had a reservoir on the roof, allowing water (a very scarce resource) to be collected and then showered over the open sides of the building - a sign of great excess, but all derelict now, I believe. This memory made the Fibes centre seem somehow sinful - even though they presumably have no such water restrictions.


Posted on April 17, 2008 at 5:35 PM

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Wednesday April 16, 2008

Mucho Queso

Now that's what I call a paella! None of your namby pamby skillets. O No.

Nigel and Robin:- note the use of the traditional scopolla.


This was the inevitable "Gala Dinner". Pretty well managed getting 2000 people to mill about in an orderly manner. However, I suffered considerably for having to stand up all evening - I am a desk johnny after all.

It was held at the Museo de Carruajes, which turns out to mean Museum of Carriages. We did not see much of the museum, as such - however, the buildings and layout were pretty amazing - and, I read, the historical buildings were formerly the Convent of Los Remedios. More fun follows here - don't get too excited now...


These women bravely tried to get everyone dancing - I was peeved as having spent several years of my life learning flamenco - and Sevillanas to boot - was unable to remember even the basic steps. Rather like what remains of 2 years of Spanish night classes.


I was told by a roving fortune-teller (with young translator in tow) that I was "very well loved and my husband loved me very much", and despite the odd health problem I would have a long life (phew). All that one wants to hear. Nigel then foretold Robin's future ("I see much beer"), and Robin saw "much cheese" in Nigel's hand, (did I mention the Tapas?).
After all that - we went home to bed....

Posted on April 16, 2008 at 11:27 PM

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Tuesday April 15, 2008

Un Paseo

We tried to see a bit of Seville in the evening while it was still daylight. The Cathedral is within easy walking distance of our hotel, so that's where we headed.

SevilleCathedral.jpg The most noticeable feature of the cathedral is its sheer size (I could not get far enough away from it to squash it all into my lens from this angle). Apparently 3rd biggest in Europe? I think it may depend what criteria you apply, as another source says it is certified by the Guinness Book of Records as being the "largest Christian Church in the World" but then you have to exclude St Peters in Rome and maybe non-Catholic churches - so I am left unsure.
But Big it is, and it turns out it was built explicitly to impress - started in 1402 with building continuing for 100 years. It was built over the site of a mosque, and some of the features were absorbed into the cathedral. We did not go in, (apart from anything else the opening times made it impossible), but a fact that caught my eye was that it houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, though his bones seem to have been in and out of interment more times than someone RIP might hope.

So this is my view of what seems to be an impressive door but I can't seem easily to find out either the name of it nor the road it's in. I found this 3D view of the cathedral for orientation....


..and here is another view from almost the same place, but facing into the square - pretty, in the dusk.


Posted on April 15, 2008 at 9:38 PM

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Monday April 14, 2008

"Oranges are not the only fruit" Jeanette Winterson

"Have a nice time but don't eat the oranges" - Tony
Day1: Ate oranges.


Have to confess they weren't Seville Oranges - which is what I think Tony had in mind. In fact they were probably not strictly oranges at all - very nice though...

Posted on April 14, 2008 at 7:18 PM

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Sunday January 27, 2008

A walk in winter

Yesterday on the way back from a shopping trip with George (my special treat - a visit to John Lewis) we happened to be on the road during the most spectacular sunset. We stopped on our way over Epsom Downs and to photograph it over the racecourse. Unfortunately we missed capturing the more startling colours - but it's still pretty amazing. [Note that I have stitched this photo together, and the join is not perfect, but you can see how splendid it is].


The weather is so fantastic - cold** and sunny.
Perfect for a walk.
It was a bit like a rerun of the Mont Buon walk at New Year - but local to our house on the common.

We have English trees,

English Gorse


and English fungus and lichen.


Finally we have a smug person in Wellingtons, anticipating her birthday.


** "Cold" - but not relative to, say, Canada.

Posted on January 27, 2008 at 6:36 PM

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Tuesday January 1, 2008

Mont Buon

Lovely weather for our New Year Day outing to Mont Buon. George went there with Lloyd while I was in the US in October and wanted to show it to me. It's very local to our house, and among the beautiful views I am sure our property is visible, though perhaps not the house itself due to the lie of the land. Use the pop-up to see the map of the route more clearly.

Here I am, dressed for the day in my new Wellingtons, and thermal socks.


We followed the gently climbing path around the "mountain" through beautiful autumnal (or should I say wintry?) woods...

...until we reached the summit - a staggering 209m.

MontBuon.jpg MontBuon_George.jpg

Points of interest were marked along the way, including a trench, used by the Resistance**. The right hand photo shows the view of the trench at 90 degrees, a little downhill; the trench is quite invisible.
[On re-reading this I realise that perhaps I should now - some 60 years on - say "used by the French Resistance during the Second World War"!]. MontBuonTrench1.jpg MontBuonTrench2.jpg

And here is the rolling stone and "chaos" as marked on the map.


I took a few more pictures of wildlife and views which are in the extended entry.

Some surprising gorse bushes:


Slightly more seasonal puffballs:


The familiar, almost luminous, moss:


A weird tree - it pops up for a closer view [I thought it looked like a rabbit - ok?]:

And those lovely views along the way...

and at the end of the walk.

Posted on January 1, 2008 at 3:57 PM

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Friday October 5, 2007

Where ginger-bread wives have a scanty sale...

I have been pretty busy all week - yesterday I went to a customer near St Pauls and it was such a lovely day and so wonderful walking around the City that I wished I had taken my camera. But I had not. However on the previous two days I was in Plymouth - which is about a 5 hour train journey (if you're unlucky). And on this occasion, I did take my camera - with an agenda.

In my working life I have been down to see customers in Plymouth with surprising frequency. Sometimes driving, and sometimes on the train. The first time I went I was astonished as I had not really thought about where I was going - basically through all those lovely Devon resorts, and beyond Exeter... [There be dragons... I expect...].

Dawlish1.jpg My memory of that first train journey is obviously fogged - I remember it being dark - certainly was when I set off, but unlikely to have been by the time I got "beyond Exeter". In my memory, dawn was breaking, grey and very stormy, and suddenly we seemed to be travelling actually in the water - it was astonishing, and the sea was spectacular - it seemed as if at any moment we could really be swept away!

This time, you can see the weather was cloudy as I travelled outbound - and the tide was out - but even so, in places the water came right up to the retaining walls and walkways. I leave in the window frame so you can get the real perspective.

So from the maps, I find that between Starcross and Teignmouth, the train does truly take a spectacular route which seems indeed almost to end up on the beach. If you hung out of the window (which I did not do and is not recommended) you could almost seem to be splashed by the waves.
The train snakes around the coastline, with a number of deep tunnels through the beautiful red sandstone cliffs. I have tried entirely inadequately to capture the moments from the train. [The first two photos taken on my outbound journey, and those that follow, taken on my return journey.]
Here, walkers along the broad sea wall walkway, the sea immediately to their left and separated from the rail track by a low wall:


Here is the Red Rock Cafe tucked behind the deep red cliffs:


And here a view of a wreck in the river mouth flats (I think) nearer to Starcross:


Try viewing some great photos from the perspective of walkers and bikers on this lovely stretch of coastline.

Posted on October 5, 2007 at 8:08 AM

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Sunday September 16, 2007

South Coast Tour

Bird_string.jpg We went to see George's sister and her family, and especially his niece, who has just had her 18th birthday. The whole family was recovering from the previous night's wild teenage party - but everything (and everyone) looked in pretty good shape to me. The puppies were exhausted having been up all night with the revelers. We took Elizabeth the "coming of age" gift, which in our case was a white gold necklace with tiny diamonds.

On the way down we made a stop at my sister's, where we were treated to the perfect lunch, and swag from her recent visit to Chennai (formerly Madras). She went to a conference with Carole, and both were surprised by the place. Hard for me to explain succinctly why - but, in a nutshell, it was the general level of dirt and lack of any influences of tourism. Even the most up-market and expensive local hotels they tried were very down-at -heel (and dirty apparently). I think it was the fact that it is the 4th largest city in India, and the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu which made this remarkable. [There were Marriots and Hiltons but they rejected these being determined to try something a little more "real"]. On the right is a souvenir string of birds with a bell, and below is a delightful bracelet, (a bit of a struggle for little fat hands!).


Finally we dropped in on George's parents, where he helped his Mother with her latest computing scheme (putting photos on DVDs as slideshows). She showed me her current artistic endeavours with her quilts, and I (at last) got to deliver the birthday gift of "short and sweet". Here she is posing for me in her lovely garden.
Note the beautiful display of hydrangeas - such a wonderful and unusual colour.


Posted on September 16, 2007 at 8:23 PM


Sheila looks very nice in her cardi. I've been wearing mine a lot and can recommend it!

Posted by: Alison on September 16, 2007 10:50 PM

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Saturday July 28, 2007

A head of steam

This afternoon we spent in a field in Fareham - at the annual open day of the Fareham and District Society of Model Engineers. George's Father (George) is an enthusiastic member and has built a model diesel train (running on a battery); rather ignorantly I do not know what scale they are made to, nor the gauge of the track, but they are large enough to take people for short trips - around the field.

Driver dedication despite the dreadful weather


View from my seat behind the driver


A head of steam!

In addition to the outdoor attractions, there were a number of display tents showing their models, and also a craft tent, in which I was delighted to find Web of Wool selling their wares. Something for everyone, indeed!

See more views of the day below

Here are some pictures of the day- click on the thumbnails to page through the album.

Fareham Model Engineers 2007

Posted on July 28, 2007 at 11:32 PM


I think, for me, Web of Wool would be the only redeeming factor. Although, having said that, I have been to the steam fair in Liphook and had a great time...and there was no wool there at all.

Posted by: Alison on August 4, 2007 3:15 AM

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Friday July 27, 2007

Prétentieuse? Moi?

The past couple of days has provided some excellent opportunities for eating, which, as usual for business trips, plays havoc with any high-minded ideals about restraining one's eating.

On Wednesday night we went as a group to La Diligence where the food was already ordered for us so we didn't even have to try and translate a menu.... and jolly good it was too. We tried sitting at the largest table to contradict the idea that the English are insular, but it didn't quite work out as we were tucked into our own little space. The restaurant was very atmospheric as you can see from the photo - I decided to post the fuzzy photo as it shows the environment more clearly than the version with flash.


Yesterday, we went with a recommendation and visited Cellier & Morel: la Maison de la Lozère.
My colleagues thought the food was excellent, and while I don't disagree it was by no means inexpensive (although I am being very unfair as it was probably far better value as well as lower cost than an equivalent meal in the UK - also I should say I did not have to foot the bill myself). Throughout, we were treated to little extra tasters from the chef, some more welcome than others for me. The main course was accompanied by what I now know to be Aligots - a regional speciality of mashed potato, Tomme cheese, and garlic. It was again excellent but we had to endure the ostentatious serving technique à table (shown right).

Posted on July 27, 2007 at 8:42 AM

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Tuesday July 24, 2007

Graceful city.

I have come to Montpellier for a couple of days of business meetings. It is remarkably hot in comparison to where I have come from and yesterday I seemed to have brought entirely the wrong clothes; however our offices are severely air conditioned and the cardigans and jackets are quite welcome there. I have not been here before, but as I have been led to believe, it is a delightful city with a small centre where you can easily walk around. We did just that on arrival yesterday afternoon, walking from the Antigone right on through the centre, past the Préfecture, up Rue Foch past the Porte du Peyrou


and as far as the St-Clément Aqueduct.


The Place de la Comédie is just outside the old town centre and provides a main focus point in the city It is a popular meeting place and tourist site, containing the "Trois Graces" statue. Here they are: Beauty, Mirth, and Good Cheer:


We all stayed in various hotels in the Antigone district. Antigone is newly-built and (without previously knowing anything about it) seemed a very strange though impressive area of interconnected pedestrian squares or plazas enclosed by apartment buildings. Each square has a central focus of fountains or statues and it is all very airy in a neo-classical style. We walked through the Antigone every day on our way in and out of the centre. Here is my favourite fountain in the Place du Nombre d'Or; the construction of Antigone was started at this end in 1981, but the fountain was added here in 2000. There is a central (Greek type) figure, whose identity I never discovered, with water jets issuing directly from the paving around him.


The jet spouts vary in degree and vigour (0 to 15m) to the delight of dogs and small children.


It is also very beautiful at night when the jets are illuminated.

In the Place de Peyrou (the end of our walk by the aqueduct) was an 18th century water tower. The photo I took had some rather strange lighting and it reminds me very much of Magritte and also his painting (or paintings I should say) Empire of Lights. Mostly it's the clouds and the symmetry of the trees I think - as well as the day combined with night effect.


Posted on July 24, 2007 at 6:29 PM

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Tuesday July 10, 2007

"Better than shopping"

I went to Nuneaton to a customer today. Catching the train on the way back, I had about 40 minutes to wait at the station. The platform was pretty empty (lunchtime), but as I ate my sandwich I wandered out of the shelter into the sun, and noticed a bunch of people at the far end, apparently enjoying a picnic. It crossed my mind that they were beyond where the trains stopped, and gradually, (as I noticed their cameras, binoculars, and clothing), light dawned - they were train-spotting.

After that, I realised that a lot of the people on the station on all the platforms were actually train-spotters rather than passengers. Without being patronising, I can't tell you how good these people make me feel; some kind of security of a bygone age, even thought their own enthusiasm is right up to date - for sure, they are not anachronistic throw-backs at all. Far from being "sad" they make me feel full of joy - reminding me there is pleasure in life from all manner of things.

I finally plucked up the courage to speak to one of them:
Me: "Are you waiting for something special to come through?"
Him: "o no"
Me: "Just a nice day out, then?"
Him: "Aye - better than shopping..." (*see note)
Me: "Yes... weeell..... actually I'm probably 50-50 on that one..."
Much laughter all round.

I so much regret I did not have my camera with me; I searched the web for pictures and information but train-spotters take and post pictures of trains, of course, not each other..


I stole this picture from James's Railway Round-up (2005). I believe it shows platform 4 and a couple of the enthusiasts.

The link is to an item about Nuneaton, but in case you don't feel the need to look, I have to quote from him here, which partly explains the popularity of the station for the spotters (*see note).

"Rail traffic is in abundance at Nuneaton station, local services are provided by Central Trains, with the London expresses being provided by Virgin Trains. There's usually 2 trains an hour to Leicester and Birmingham, an hourly service to Coventry and an hourly service to London and Liverpool Lime Street. However, many passenger trains can be seen hurtling through Nuneaton at top speeds of 125mph!! and are all Pendolino tilting trains - again - all are operated by Virgin.

Freightwise, several operators can be seen at Nuneaton, including EWS, Freightliner, GBRf and DRS. Motive power is mainly in the shape of Class 60 and 66 diesel locomotives, electric locomotives appear in the shape of Class 86, 90 and 92 and mainly appear on Trafford Park - Daventry/Dollands Moor/Felixstowe freight flows. Network Rail also makes a periodic appearance in the shape of their bright yellow New Measurement HST, nicknamed by the rail fraternity "Doctor Yellow" or "The Flying Banana". The 2 newly acquired Class 86 loadbank locomotives, 86901 and 86902 also show up from time to time as they visit different sections of the WCML, these are stabled at Rugby."

I admit I was on the station for almost an hour, but even so there seemed to be quite a lot of traffic - and some of it interesting (I repeat - I was on the station for nearly an hour...) in the shape of freight marked from China, and, of course the astonishingly fast high speed trains - pretty scary from the viewpoint of the platform.

*Note: I noticed phrases during my search on the web, including: "....packing her husband off to Nuneaton station to do some train-spotting while she did her own thing..." and "She went shopping, and I returned the the station.". So perhaps it really was an alternative to shopping.

Posted on July 10, 2007 at 9:35 PM

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Sunday July 8, 2007

Out of Africa

George has just returned from his trip (landed at 7:30 this morning). My friend Simon, who came from Rhodesia (as it was then), used to be driven to distraction by the habit of the English in referring to "Africa" as if it were a country - rather than a huge continent. So to be more specific, George was in Johannesburg all week. He had yesterday free to roam the markets and buy tourist art, and what he returned with is lovely. Here is my swag: a lovely pottery mug, a malachite cat, bead necklaces (one haematite), one bone bracelet and one bracelet with porcupine spines, (I am pretending no porcupines were harmed in the making of this jewellery but I am suspecting the worst), and a bag of multicoloured seed beads.


He also brought back some heavy cotton fabrics, which I think have been treated with some sort of water proofing, and are intended as table cloths. This hand printed one we have decided to keep for ourselves.


His Mother will have to tolerate the usual (or unusually large) haul of elephants - that being her "thing".

Other than that, it sounded like very hard work - they had to change the venue of the customer presentations at the last minute from the company offices to the hotel, as the water was turned off at the offices which meant it was pretty well impossible to work there, never mind host a customer. If you read Louise's blog I guess you see that different places are very ... different; expect the unexpected. (Louise is in Senegal, though, nowhere near South Africa).

Posted on July 8, 2007 at 10:55 AM

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Thursday July 5, 2007

Serious shopping

I went to Oxford yesterday and thought I might do some shopping after my meeting but in the end I had no time. I had made a plan to look for some specific items, so to cover the disappointment I went to John Lewis in Kingston - where I found they had the sale to end all sales - mostly in the wool dept but more of that in a minute - and between there and Bentalls I came away with huge bags of swag.

FloralSkirt.jpg Most of the clothes I bought were sensible - in that they are replacements for items in my wardrobe that are a bit shabby - but I also bought this Fenwright and Manson skirt, which is lovely but I remain unsure about it, as it contains colours that are not "my" colours, and I had great difficulty in imagining what to wear with it. GreyTop.jpg In the end, I bought an uninteresting elephant grey top from the same source as it is an exact matching colour; the other colours in the skirt (rust and cream) are not so flattering on me. I noted that the grey Rowan 4ply soft is a good colour match but do not want to put a hand knitted top on the critical path to wearing the skirt. To brighten the grey top I added a chunky bead necklace

I also bought what seemed like a ton of wool - actually it still does seem like a lot but at exactly half price it was a veritable bargain, and not all new projects on a whim either. First up is Debbie Bliss Astrakhan....


....which I have been ogling ever since the Ally Pally show last year,. However, to date I have been hopelessly indecisive about the colour, and unwilling to take a risk with such expensive wool: but not with a limited palette on sale - sold! to the lady with the red fetish...
In fact I am planning to knit this for someone else but I note it may be a good colour match for the new skirt. Hmmm.

Cathay.jpg They had Debbie Bliss Cathay on sale in many wonderful colours. I find this a very appealing yarn, with a texture and composition similar to Calmer, but in a classic double knitting weight.
Despite being so smitten I managed to restrict myself to two colours: a burnt orange, which I am hoping will be suitable for a retro pattern from Jane Waller's "Mans Book", and the red for me, probably an Interweave knits pattern from last summer (it just fails to quite match the new skirt, and in consequence is a nice colour for me!).
The oatmeal colour is again a double knitting wool, Jaeger extrafine Merino DK; I was seduced by the lovely wool quality, (the price!), and the suitable Man Colour (or George Colour).
And just in case I don't have enough knitting books I bought the Jaeger knitting book for men too, as it was also on sale.


In the latest Rowan book 41, I really liked Orford - but unlike all those little 1950s tops it's made in Rowan Cotton Rope which as its name suggests is quite thick. So I thought it might be a bit heavy for a "little top". In addition, being thick heavy cotton, it used lots of balls of yarn, making it quite pricey.
But hey presto! Cotton Rope at half price! (and so quick to knit up...).

I am digging those red shorts out of my wardrobe as we speak.

Posted on July 5, 2007 at 9:46 PM


Yum, vicarious JL sale shopping! I love the skirt, and if the photo is a good representation of the colour, I like the elephant grey too.

Posted by: Alison on July 8, 2007 10:46 AM

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Saturday June 2, 2007

Dates in history

Notable occasions for this date are: the Queen's coronation in 1953 and the US release of Sgt Pepper in 1967. Very nearly (June 3rd) on the very day itself, Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson, in 1937...... and .... George's Mother came into the world.

So this year it's a special "0", and, yes - I'm sorry Sheila - your birthday is now a date in history.

I'm not sure what kind of a birthday she had - but the rest of us had a great time, spending a lovely sunny day in her garden and being treated to a fantastic cold buffet meal - perfect - o and did I mention cake?

George's sister has just acquired 2 puppies - irresistible - here they are - the usual variety of border collie/springer spaniel cross - Freddie and Daisy:

puppies1.jpg puppies2.jpg


Posted on June 2, 2007 at 7:05 PM

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Tuesday May 29, 2007

People that make a difference.

This evening I attended the memorial service for Helen Hudson - former Dean of Students at Kings College, London, where I studied. When I was interviewed, before I took up life as an undergraduate, she was "Tutor to Women Students" - which I thought charmingly antiquated even at that time. During my first year they changed her title so that she could offer her wisdom to all students regardless of gender (although I think she had been helping chaps just as much as women all along).

During the service I was asked if she had been a "personal friend" - which I had to deny - but thinking about it, she really was a personal friend to all of us, and this was reflected by the large attendance (they had to bring extra chairs into the chapel). The novelist Michael Morpurgo (King’s, French & English, 1967) has contributed to an obituary for Helen, published in Church Times, which is worth reading as a synopsis of her interesting life, and illustrates her exceptional kindness.

Visiting the chapel again after all these years brought back lots of good memories, including that of my wedding (which by coincidence was 26 years ago to the day, as it was the Tuesday after the Spring Bank Holiday). I was able to seek out my very own hassock that I had embroidered as part of a group effort for the 150 year anniversary about 30 years ago, while having a good look round and taking in the many changes (including the repositioning of the organ). I did think that I did not remember the new (and I thought rather incongruous) modern stained glass windows - and I was right. The Dean mentioned that he decided to have them installed in 2000 - the originals having been destroyed in the Blitz of the 2nd World War, and replaced by "temporary" plain glass. Helen sponsored two of them - the nicest I think - depicting the two Marys.

The chapel as it appears today was a refurbishment to a new design in 1864, by George Gilbert Scott, (who among many other things designed the Albert memorial); he is very noticably inspired by Pugin and the chapel is typical Gothic architecture. In 1996 they set about substantially restoring the chapel to Scott's original design, and this is now largely completed (apparently).

Picture from the Illustrated London News, June 26, 1869, (where donations were invited to complete the chapel), showing the original design with the vaulted ceiling (removed in the 1930s), compared with today, showing some of the 19 new windows (the east wall).

chapel.jpg chapel_300.jpg

"Faithful to the balancing of the tradition and the new situation, we commissioned from the renowned artist, Joseph Nuttgens, new window designs to the old topics and to reflect upon the objects of the College in its Charters."
Yes but...
In my opinion however, the windows, though beautiful, just don't fit in.
But (sigh) I accept that we have to move forward.

Posted on May 29, 2007 at 9:45 PM

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Sunday May 27, 2007

Bank Holidays and other wet weekends

On Friday evening, post curry, Rob and I watched a DVD created by one of his video students as course work. It is a "horror" story, containing love, murder, and body parts - all the elements required. Without wishing to be patronising, it was pretty good; most importantly I think it demonstrated an excellent talent for putting the video together to tell the story, which is after all what they were learning. However it made me look up a couple of (interesting) things on the web.

In addition to the short story she had included 2 other chapters on her DVD. Apart from a really nice spoof of "most haunted", she documented a little experiment. Using a night vision camera in the totally dark theatre, she filmed her fellow students experiencing psychic phenomena (or not). In addition to a number of young cynics, the film illustrated an interesting effect called "orbs" which are spots of light with apparently no source - and not visible to the participants at the time. She said she had "researched" the topic and that they are considered to be psychic in origin. Well - I had to follow this up didn't I? and they are indeed an interesting effect - and not entirely well understood or explained (I am thinking more in photographic terms) - but they seem to be part of the "crop circle" mind set, with more written about (what I believe to be) less likely explanations than probable ones. Here's another cynic's view.

The second element of her tale which interested me was a slight reference to "cellular memory" - used in her plot really more to be part of her ghost story - perhaps more akin to the "Mummy's Hand" genre than any pretence at a scientific basis. But it did remind me of the Alexander McCall Smith story from the Sunday Philosophy Club series, and again I was prompted to surf the net. Here is a web article, and here a therapist's view.

So what a rich vein of intellectual ore the student DVD experience led me to. Quite a contrast to the "Treats", the West End play we went to see on Saturday. It was the penultimate performance (matinee) so I feel OK about insulting it. It seemed a very weak topic, which if it had any interest deeper than that portrayed, I have to doubt its political correctness in expressig them - it seemed to imply a superficial view that women prefer rats and that's that. I was reminded strongly of Cowards "Design for Living" and felt the latter a much better play. Can't fault the cast though - which is why we were tempted to go and see it - Billy Piper (came to popular culture/TV fame in Dr Who), Kris Marshall (My Family), and Laurence Fox (Lewis). Sadly not worth anything like the ticket price, especially as it is a very short play - seemingly missing a third act - the one where everything comes to a point.

Today, making up for this disappointment, and with the weather steadily worsening, we went to the Screen at Reigate to see: Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End. Guaranteed to have a good time all round (Yo Ho Ho) even without the bottle of rum (shiver my timbers and pieces of eight). By contrast with the play this was a very long film - but every second counted. As a bonus I was able to secretly knit all the way through as well - secretly, as knitting often distracts others I find, even though it does not distract me in any way!

Posted on May 27, 2007 at 9:47 PM

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Friday May 18, 2007

The time is :

We spent a day longer in Mainz than usual as it proved less expensive to balance a reduced air fare and have a extra night in the hotel. It did have the advantage of not having to rush away to the airport half way through the final afternoon's teaching, which is what usually happens. However, we chose a bad day to have a morning to kill in Mainz, as it was Ascension Day on Thursday which is a public holiday in Germany - not only could we not shop but the office was closed. As it was, I need not have worried, we spent all morning on conference calls and had no time for sight seeing.

I would like to have had time to see Chagall's luminous blue quire windows in St Stephan's, (apparently only a step away from the Eisgrub-Bräu). Every time I go to Mainz I think I will make time to go but it never happens. I could I suppose start nearer to home as there are some at All Saints in Tudeley (Kent), but that never happens either.

On the way to and from Heathrow I was made to ponder on things such as this, by endless mobile phone ads urging me to "make the most of now". Not sure I like the concept to be hijacked by advertisers but ...

Posted on May 18, 2007 at 7:09 PM

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Blick über den Rhein

I am not sure where May went as a whole (it seems I am booking my diary into June now) but the last few days were spent in Mainz. The travel and the stay were altogether very easy, and the educational course I attended was of great interest to me; I feel very lucky.

I stayed at the Hilton, where my room overlooked the Rhein, which always lifts my spirits. The photo (a publicity shot I'm afraid) shows the back of the hotel (my room to the left on the 7th floor); you can - and I have in rather more clement weather - eat outside on the terrace by the Rhein. As it was, (raining - proper rain), we breakfasted firmly indoors, and watched the brave souls out for an early morning run or bike ride beside the river.


On Monday evening, six of our number ate at Heilig Geist, which is a restaurant in a converted church building. It is asparagus season, and they had a special asparagus menu. We dutifully ate lots of asparagus.
Tuesday was a beautiful evening full of soft sunshine, and we were able to stroll through the square before joining our colleagues for a group meal at the Eisgrub-Bräu, which is a brewery - micro or otherwise.
Wednesday was pouring with rain once again, and we ate at Cubo Negro - a sort of nouveau cuisine Italian. There seem to be 3 associated premises here: a cafe, a bar, and the restaurant, which had recently been refurbished. It was by far the most refined of our choices, as well as the most expensive. All very pleasant, and in charming company.
I feel very ..... lucky.

Posted on May 18, 2007 at 8:18 AM


I love the idea of eating in a restaurant called "Holy Ghost". I have fond memories of eating through stacks of asparagus in Mainz. There is also a large section of Roman Wall still in existence in the basement of the Hotel Dorint...something else you can miss when you are next in Mainz.

Posted by: Alison on May 20, 2007 3:59 AM

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Sunday March 4, 2007

Hidden treasures (aka Stuff)

We've just returned from Rotheram (Elsecar Heritage Centre, in fact) where they were holding a BBR auction today. Here is Alan, doing his stuff. All the guys are called Alan, which is very helpful for those of us who are unable to remember names.

BBR auction.jpg

George bid on a few items, in the end, coming away with two lots. He bought a couple of items from the dealers' stalls as well. There were very few doll heads on sale and while I was "just looking" at one labelled £6, (the nicest and cleanest one I had seen - even including others labelled £25-£40!), the seller said "£3 if you can use it..." - so it was a done deal. The head is a small (5 inches?) AM 1894 - not uncommon, but nice - I think I have a similar one already. Here's the swag:


On the way home, we stopped off at Leicester on a rather peculiar mission to see "Pete".
Some time ago, Pete contacted me through the China Dolls site and said he had "some doll parts" which had belonged to his Mother, and did I know anyone who would want them? I was lukewarm about this (I have a lot of "doll parts" of my own) but said I would drop in if I was ever up that way. I also failed to ask how many boxes of stuff we were talking about. Anyway, we have come away with 3 modest boxes, which seem to contain nice enough things, and I have suggested I try and put them up on eBay for him. They are certainly worth having, but there is virtually no doll market or hobby interest any more, so we will have to see. More on this when I do an inventory of the contents.

Posted on March 4, 2007 at 7:07 PM

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Friday March 2, 2007


The conference ended today, and Mickey finally put in an appearance at breakfast. Here he is Meeting and Greeting:

Mickey1.jpg Mickey2.jpg Mickey3.jpg

Strangely (to me) he is much more popular than Mini - kids queuing up to see him. Some of them were too scared to go up to him when it was their turn - which is quite understandable - faced with a huge mouse twice their size at least - he looks so tiny on the cartoons.

Anyway, here I am at home now - safe from six-foot mice, and his friends. And - what a civilised way to travel that Eurostar is; I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed on company business. On the way over I completed a bit of work left over from last week; on the way back,I listened to my talking book and completed a pair of socks. Now I am going to retire with said book - it's "Remote Control" by Andy McNabb (not usually my sort of thing but he is an excellent writer and I was very interested to hear him talking about his life on Desert Island Discs once....) - just the last few tracks to go....

Posted on March 2, 2007 at 10:05 PM

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Thursday March 1, 2007

You wanna take my picture..?


Mini posing for me at breakfast time; sadly I did not do her justice, (camera-shake sans-flash as usual).

Posted on March 1, 2007 at 8:20 AM

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Grog, anybody?

The night of the Great Gala Dinner
They kept the park open late for us, and we managed 3 rides within the hour before we were forced to go to dinner (!).

Fliss_Joe.jpg Accompanied by Fliss and Joe - and the other 3000 participants - we went on "Haunted House", "Thunder Mountain" (Fliss was very brave about this one), and "Pirates of the Carribean". Joe and I did try for "Space Tours", as Joe was enthusing about the virtual software being done by my company; however, it was firmly "fermé" by the time we got there - and I think I had a narrow escape as I was assured by several veterans that it makes you feel quite groggy.
I had a great time - but Joe explained that you haven't really had the true experience unless you have spent an hour in a queue for a ride with 2 small kids in tow.

Mini-Pete.jpg The dinner was fun - as usual they are never too good about dietary exceptions but that's usually because the organisers fail to relate the "do you have any special dietary needs?" adequately to the restaurants. Fliss, yet again, got a vegetarian meal while protesting "but it's not meat I'm allergic to!". Glad I have no problems in this area, as I would not have the endless patience she seems to have to deal with it all.

After dinner, we were treated to some excellent entertainment, (besides the "entertainment" in the photo), which was pretty high quality but a bit loud for me, and I have now retired back to the hotel, so I can get up tomorrow for the 8:30 start. I wonder how many colleagues will make it tomorrow (today!)?


Posted on March 1, 2007 at 12:12 AM

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Monday February 26, 2007

I love Paris when it's raining


It is raining but not sure if it is Paris.
The hotel staff are surly enough but.... you might otherwise hardly guess.
Yesterday we were ruminating on the fact we were in France, in an American theme park, eating in a pseudo German beer keller.

So now you have guessed it - I am at at Eurodisney attending our annual business conference. It's not always here of course - I think the weirdest was in Crete where we appeared to have been booked into some kind of zoo. Everyone thought it was the drink causing them to see Emus and Ostriches roaming around as they returned to their chalets after hours.
However.... that was in another country....


I bought my Ears as soon as I arrived and wore them to the introductory drinks reception yesterday evening.
Most disconcertingly no-one mentioned them at all. Like having spinach on your teeth.
And I looked so cute in them - even though they are made to fit the under tens; an American colleague was just telling me that in Disneyworld they have Ears with a veil and Ears with a top hat for weddings - that's the spirit!
Anway I plan to give them another outing when we are let into the park on Wednesday - I was assured by another colleague that they will not only be acceptable at the gala dinner but de rigeur on the rides.


Posted on February 26, 2007 at 11:00 PM

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Tuesday February 6, 2007


Just returned from an evening at the Cotttesloe seeing this adaptation of the Virgina Woolf novel: "A fragmented and dreamlike tale of friendship, loss, identity and love". It was a touch bizarre but wonderful, and I feel very lucky to have managed to get tickets to see it so near the end of its run. Unfortunately it's very hard for me to describe what it was like. Robert told me to expect a "sort of multimedia production" and that seems the closest I can get. The book is a stream of conciousness and the play echoes this.

waves.jpg The production and set is rather like being on the set of a radio play, where you see the creation of all sound effects, as well as hearing the play; but not only that, since there are also lighting and visual effects being created and filmed in front of you and projected on screen.

In the first five minutes I felt completely distracted by all the business going on on the stage, and thought it was hopeless; but very quickly I adjusted to the pace of the play and easily followed the real action, and dialogue. Sometimes your eye is drawn to a point-lit actor, sometimes to the creation of the effects, sometimes to the video screening. At a technical level, I think you would have been pleased to have produced a short video of the quality seen in the play, and there they were actually creating it for you as you watched...

The whole is a fantastic collage of theatrical media, which sadly I do not have the journalistic talent to praise enough.

Posted on February 6, 2007 at 11:41 AM

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Saturday January 6, 2007

Freedom and Plastic People

Robert and I went to see Rock 'n' Roll at the Duke of York - it's the latest Tom Stoppard play which is partly set in Prague, between the Soviet invasion of 1968 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Some people said "at last he's written about Czechoslovakia" as though no-one realises he was born there - but I was so aware of his roots over the years that I was a bit surprised to learn he left when he was a baby. I also remember a play many years ago called "Professional Foul" which I really enjoyed a lot - but it may have been about an unnamed Iron Curtain country, rather than citing Czechoslovakia.

rocknroll.jpg It's a very elegant and wordy play, and described, by one reviewer, as "a brilliant exploration of liberty, rebellion and identity that captures the spirit of the Sixties, from the Prague underground to the fragile genius of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett". I felt a bit lukewarm about it - it started life last June and I think may have been better with the original cast. Several reviewers said it was bold and innovative, raw and full of passion, seemingly written by a much younger man; this explains to me that I felt it was a little unformed - like a young man's play... However, even though I am not very imaginative, I can see that it's a very personal play, and it explores what life might have been like for Stoppard if he had returned to Prague in 1948, as his hero does in the play.

Everybody asks me "Did you enjoy it?" (you can see their brains ticking as they register that they do not know of the play), and I had no instantly prepared answer. However "Yes" I did enjoy it, and found it quite moving - probably the nostalgia over the music. The most musically moving scene for me was when our hero is living in Prague, and he finds the police have destroyed his entire record collection which he had managed to hang on to, despite everything else falling apart around him; all, that is, bar one that his friend had borrowed. It’s a Beachboys album, (“I knew you wouldn’t mind”), which of course they then play. Even before it hits the turntable I just knew what it was going to be. Up to then we had heard lots of Pink Floyd, Dylan etc. Now, after all the deprivation and persecutions, petty and otherwise, we hear "...and wouldn't it be nice to live together In the kind of world where we belong...."

The play also introduces us to the band "Plastic People of the Universe" who unwillingly became a symbol of the political struggle, while they were rather anarchists; they complained "no-one ever talks about our music!".

After all this intellectual stimulation we were quite hungry, so we went on to eat at Sofra in Tavistock Street. It's Turkish food, and really excellent. Even more amazingly, they charged us only for the lunch time special menu; I can only presume we must have been seated rather too early for qualify for the higher priced dinner.

Posted on January 6, 2007 at 11:55 PM